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Sports-Betting Venture Action Network Raises $17.5 Million From Ex-UFC Owners, Chernin Group, Pro Sports Teams

All bets are on for the Action Network, the sports-wagering content and analytics roll-up formed by Peter Chernin’s Chernin Group. The company closed $17.5 million in Series B funding led by Fertitta Capital, the investment firm of former UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta.

The Chernin Group, which created the Action Network in October 2017 and furnished seed capital, also re-invested in the company. With the new funding, Chernin Group remains the largest shareholder in Action Network but is not the majority owner.

Also participating in the Action Network’s funding round were the Chicago Cubs, owned by the Ricketts family; David Blitzer of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns stakes in the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils; esports investor BitKraft Esports Ventures; 6721 Capital, founded by sports marketing exec Casey Wasserman and Code Advisors; and SoFi CEO Anthony Noto (formerly Twitter’s COO).

The Action Network’s backers see huge potential growth for the sports-wagering content biz, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that had banned sports gambling nationwide. Sports betting is now legal in eight states and more than a dozen other states are considering legislation to legalize it.

The company provides sports-gambling news, how-to articles, and analysis, as well as real-time odds and the ability to track bets via its website and app.

“We see an incredible opportunity as we focus on securing the necessary approvals in regulated U.S. sports betting jurisdictions as well as those around the world,” Action Network CEO Patrick Keane said in a statement. The company last fall hired Keane, who was formerly CBS Interactive’s chief marketing officer and CEO of Associated Content, as well as a former board member of Bleacher Report. He was an original seed-stage investor in the Action Network.

With the funding round, Mike Kerns, president of Chernin Digital, was named the chairman of Action Network. Nakisa Bidarian, CEO of Fertitta Capital, is joining as a director.

“We are thrilled to welcome Fertitta Capital, and this exceptional group of sports, media and technology investors into the fold, as we build the next phase of the Action Network,” Kerns said in announcing the funding. He said the investment “will help us expand our audience reach and depth of product offerings for years to come.”

The Action Network launched in January 2018, after Chernin Group merged three companies it had acquired: Mark Cuban-backed FantasyLabs, Sports Insights, and SportsAction.

In addition to Keane, the company’s hires include Darren Rovell, former ESPN sports business writer; Rob Perez (aka “WorldWideWob”), former host of co-branded ESPN/Cycle Media production “Buckets”; and Jason Sobel, formerly a writer with ESPN and Golf Channel.

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