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Emily D. Swoboda

Q.& A. | Charles H. Gillespie

29 January 2009

At the end of last year, a young Shanghai-based sports media company received its first venture capital funding from Valhalla Investments Inc., led by industry veteran Mark Blandford.

Mr. Blandford, former chief executive of Sportingbet, and an admitted lover of the Asian market, told IGamingNews in December that he found World Sports Network, which launched just over a year ago, to be "a very exciting company doing very brave things in a huge and very exciting market."

And, as part of the investment, Mr. Blandford was appointed as a director of the company.

Following the investment, the company, which publishes free consumer sports betting information on its Web site,, in both English and Chinese, announced plans to use the funds to develop content and initiate coverage of additional sports leagues like the National Basketball Association. Currently World Sports Network focuses on soccer -- more specifically, European soccer -- with an emphasis in coverage on the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain.

IGamingNews checked in with Charles H. Gillespie, the chief executive of World Sports Network, to find out what's been happening since the influx of cash.

Obviously, it's only been a short time, but how things are going since the Valhalla investment?

    As of right now, it has only been a few weeks so things have not changed much since the closing. We have moved into a bigger space, purchased some additional servers and gone forward with hiring about 10 more people we had waiting in the wings. These operational moves are putting us in good position to finish working on our current football media products and be able to finish our N.B.A. content well in advance of next season.

With the economy the way it is, have you had to adjust your plans or expectations, or are things going according to plan?

    I feel like every C.E.O. nowadays starts off every comment with “Given the extreme nature of the current economic situation . . . ” and I have to say the same thing. Things are terrible out there, particularly on the venture finance side. Overall, returns on V.C. funds since the dot-com bubble have been quite poor, and the current climate, with no possibilities for an I.P.O., is exacerbating the situation. Funds are concentrating on getting cash from their existing portfolio companies so that they can survive long enough to exit when the market comes back around. Thankfully, we were able to close the round with Mark despite the disintegrating economic climate.

    As far as operational plans, yes, we have revised things a bit in light of the economic climate. Online advertising rates in places like the U.K. remain an order of magnitude greater than mainland China. You make significantly more money off of each visitor. It also costs more money to get the traffic, but in the end, we believe there are better short-term opportunities outside of mainland China.

    We love China, and we are headquartered in Shanghai for a reason. But for the next few months we are putting more time into our English-language media properties than our Chinese-language ones. Toward the second half of the year, we will shift the focus back onto the Chinese site in anticipation of the 2009-10 N.B.A. season. The Chinese are going bonkers for basketball, and we are going to be ready with some very unique content.

Conference Spotlight: Asian i-Gaming Congress & Expo

Charles Gillespie will talk about building a brand in the Asian market on Feb. 25 at AIG.

Click here for more information on this event.

Q.& A. | Charles H. Gillespie is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda