Independent Podcast Aims To Develop And Educate Ontario Sports Bettors

Written By Dave Briggs on March 29, 2022 - Last Updated on April 28, 2022

After over 70 episodes in eight months, the Canadian Sportsbet Prime Time podcast has stayed true to its core mission to educate Ontario sports bettors.

Co-host Matt Howorth said the podcast is a unique, informative, independent voice, “focused on developing sports bettors in Canada.”

(April 28 editor’s update: As of the April 22 podcast, the show is officially part of the SiriusXM family and has been rebranded as the SiriusXM Sportsbet Primetime)

It is an increasingly crowded broadcast market just ahead of the April 4 launch of open sports betting in Ontario. Yet, Howorth said he’s proud CSPT (@CanadianBetting on Twitter) is one of the first podcasts to focus on the legal sports betting market in Ontario and Canada. The podcast launched last year, well ahead of the August 2021 dawn of single-event wagering in Canada.

Howorth shares the hosting duties with seasoned sports bettor John Siscos.

Siscos said educating sports fans on sports betting is, “exactly what we’re going for. There are lots of fans. There are going to be lots of new bettors… the awareness numbers are low on sports betting (in Ontario). We feel that we want to be in the space that allows people to be educated with regard to sports betting. That’s the reason why we started it and we feel very good about it. We’re excited.”

How their show is different

Howorth said he and Siscos curate “interesting sports betting stories for Canadians and angles within Canadian sport that might draw their attention or be more compelling or engaging.” He said too many of their competitors are little more than, “Here’s our tip.’

“The difference is, we come at it from a completely different angle. We want you to feel confident, to be more engaged with sports betting, to feel more confident about your own analytical process,” Howorth said.

Siscos agreed.

“The key thing for us has been we don’t want to ever be just a ‘picks’ pod,” Siscos said. “What we don’t want to do is tell people… ‘Take the Buffalo Bills -3. Now, go away and make your bet.’ It should be, ‘This is why I like the Buffalo Bills -3 and here’s how you can do it yourself, because fan and potential new bettor, we want to show you what to do.'”

Entertainment is also key.

“We want to move fans to the sports betting marketplace to be able to be entertained by it all, first and foremost, because nobody is making a billion dollars (betting sports),” Siscos said. “They’re just here to be entertained and we want to show them how to do it and just use some real-life examples of some of the things that I’m doing and some of the things that you can see out there on the Internet.”

Show structure is key

Each show features a number of interesting Canadian-focused sports betting stories and discussions on the top wagering events of the week.

“Then we fold in an educational piece, but not in a condescending way… We sort of blend it in,” Howorth said.

Siscos points to the March 11 podcast, which included a segment on how bettors can decipher “coach speak,” as a particular favourite.

Howorth said it’s important to dispense solid betting advice from hosts with life experience that are deeply passionate about sports. Howorth and Siscos are both 53.

“I’m less stoked about having an advisor that’s 28,” Howorth said. “The man or woman might be twice as smart as I am, but I’m just not feeling as good when someone 28 is telling me what I should do medically or with my taxes or legally. I just don’t feel as comfortable.”

CSPT’s origin story

How did two long-time Toronto sports fans come to start a podcast?

Siscos was a long-time publicist for horse racing’s Woodbine Entertainment Group.

Howorth spent 20 years as a corporate lawyer in Toronto. Long a fan of listening to podcasts while he jogs, Howorth said the answer was obvious.

“I started listening to podcasts extensively at least 10 or maybe 15 years ago. Way back to some of the really early ones — Pardon the Interruption and pre-drug Lance Armstrong shows,” Howorth said. “I have had a lot of exposure to podcasts and what works and, in my opinion, what doesn’t and what’s interesting. What gets boring fast and what is popular and what works in terms of gaining an audience.”

Is an independent podcast on sports betting commercially viable?

Still, Howorth had his doubts whether a podcast on Canadian sports betting could find an audience and be commercially viable.

“The Internet is where it is and there’s no shortage of content out there,” Howorth said. “Is this going to spin your wheels doing something that’s not going to gain any traction and is not really a viable commercial (option)? We’re not trying to get rich, and we have no delusions of that. But, if it’s going to be a complete failure, do you want to bother starting?”

One of the main challenges he expected was a flood of similar programming in the Ontario market.

Critical of the Toronto sports media landscape

Toronto sports media has recently jumped into the sports betting conversation in the last six months, Howorth said.

“It’s basically moved 100%. They went from not talking about sports betting at all, or maybe 0.01% of the time, to you can’t get through a conversation (without it). It’s constant now. It’s because of the opportunity, commercially, for them to generate ad revenue,” he said.

“We expected (the market) to be flooded because of legalization, but I’m surprised how it’s taken over every discussion on every show.”

The quality of competing shows is further compromised by the fact there is massive concentration in the Toronto sports media. The market is dominated by telecommunication companies Rogers and Bell Media. Those companies also own the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays, the Toronto FC MLS team, as well as the country’s two biggest sports television channels, TSN and SportsNet and The Fan radio network.

“The Globe (newspaper) is relatively independent and you can see it in some of their writing. They’re a little more critical in an honest way in terms of things like MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment) and the Leafs and the Jays and the Raptors and so on. But there’s a real shortage of that in the market,” Howorth said. “The reason I say that is because I think people want to hear it. You can see it on Twitter. People are more real and more honest, especially the younger generation. They’re tired of just this packaging. It’s just promotional. Shortcomings or failures are downplayed and the positive developments are accentuated.”

The Canadian Sportsbet Prime Time podcast aims to be an answer to that, providing an independent voice.

The end goal

Howorth doesn’t say it, but it seems obvious the hope is that CSPT will partner with a company or sponsor to help grow the podcast.

Currently, the show is ad free and not attached to any sports betting operators.

In the meantime, Howorth and Siscos will keep just keep doing what they do for the foreseeable future and see where it leads.

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Dave Briggs

Before joining PlayOntario, Dave spent more than 25 years as a writer and editor, mainly covering horse racing in Canada. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Western University and was a 2018 inductee into the Communicators' Corner of the U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Beyond a deep passion for family and music, Dave has a mostly-tragic, life-long love of Detroit sports teams. He lives in Port Stanley, Ontario with his wife and their beloved Vizsla named California.

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