SBC News Michael Daly on Catena Media’s Tech-First Approach to US Growth

Michael Daly on Catena Media’s Tech-First Approach to US Growth

The effectiveness of affiliate-operator partnerships relies on numerous factors. These include the potency of the affiliate brand, their commitment to developing top-quality content, and their bold strategies for customer acquisition.

Whether the strategy builds on the implementation of new technologies, exploration of diverse player acquisition tactics, or a forward-thinking approach to commission models, the goal remains the same – ensuring sustainability in a competitive market.

SBC’s Affiliate Leaders caught up with Michael Daly, CEO of Catena Media, prior to his participation at SBC Summit North America, delving into topics such as the significance of affiliate branding in the US, anticipated shifts in operator and affiliate dynamics, Catena’s advancements in AI integration, and the strategic pivot towards a revenue share model in the US market, among other key discussion points.

SBC: Can you provide a brief overview of the current landscape for operator-affiliate partnerships in the US market? What role does (affiliate) branding play in the success of such partnerships?

Michael Daly (CEO of Catena Media): Operators and affiliates have a healthy relationship in the US market, though that varies a bit by the parties involved. Various operators have certain affiliates they work with more closely than others and certain operators, in general, appreciate the support an affiliate can provide to an operator’s consumer sentiment.

A strong affiliate brand stands out in the market, acting as a source of trust and credibility. Recognised and respected affiliate brands help build the operator’s brand, making us affiliates valuable partners for operators. 

Such brands not only attract engaged audiences, but also improve consumer sentiment and brand perception for the operator. In essence, the success of operator/affiliate partnerships in the US depends on the strength of the affiliate’s brand, its ability to navigate the complex regulatory environment and its commitment to ethical marketing practices.

SBC: How do you plan to address the role of content and customisation in maximising acquisition during the Affiliate Leaders panel discussion at SBC Summit North America?

MD: Our position as perhaps the strongest on organic SEO keyword rankings comes from our recognition of the importance of strong, authoritative, content on our sites. 

We employ some of the finest journalists, and we are very proud of that fact. These team members are paired with SEO resources and technologists who can help them further refine and develop their content. The technologists also help with personalisation, be it placing the right content versions in the right markets, using geolocation or as we move forward helping with AI tools to allow even more content to be created based on our journalists input, which means we can further focus on various audiences for deeper engagement.

SBC: Looking ahead, what do you foresee as the next big shifts or challenges in the landscape of affiliate partnerships in the United States?

MD: The US affiliate landscape expects consolidation with operators favouring larger more established affiliates.

Regulatory changes and the increased demand for personalised content will continue to shape the affiliate landscape, creating higher-barriers to entry and a greater focus on delivering value to both operators and consumers.

SBC: Can you elaborate on the decision to invest in an artificial intelligence for the development of a bespoke affiliation platform? How do you foresee the integration of AI impacting the operational aspects of Catena Media and contributing to future growth?

MD: AI is upon us, not just in this industry, but in the industrialised world.  We saw a couple of approaches:

  1. Ignore it for now/watch it and wait for a future time when it is more clear. 
  2. Use something off the shelf and try to make it work for our specific application. 
  3. Embark on a technical journey to build something, based on other AI developments, that was custom/bespoke for our particular needs as a gambling affiliate, and then potentially have a product we can also offer to other affiliates who may wish to work with us or perhaps serve markets other than those we focus on.  

While it will be a journey, it will move rapidly, as AI technology learns quickly. We intend to make this a core tool for our teams to help them produce more personalised content, in larger volumes so that we can compete in the landscape that is going to be our new reality.

SBC: Could you provide more insights into the strategic shift from CPA to revenue share in North America and what’s its expected impact?

MD: Catena Media recognised that there would be a time when CPAs would start to be less valuable than revenue-share, in terms of absolute dollar, as well as payment certainty, and had been planning for a while to start a transition. 

For us, this could not happen until we were both certain of the operators who would be “in play” for the future as having rev-share with disappearing operators made no sense, and it could not occur until operators were willing to consider terms that work for both sides.  

Also, in the case of Catena Media, we wished to fuel our expansion in North America without adding to our debt, and actually used some of our work there to reduce our debt to the very low levels we now have.  

The impact is what we will now work to manage as it will shift over the next few years, with some operators moving ahead while others are kept on CPA so as not to have a massive short-term impact, albeit there will still be a sizable one in the beginning quarters until those first cohorts on rev-share start to bring in revenues.  Over time, though, this growing cohort of revenue-share players will contribute in a less seasonally cyclic manner and over the life of those revenue-share agreements contribute significantly more in absolute value.

SBC: With North America contributing 84% (according to the Q3 report) of the group revenue, how does Catena Media plan to further capitalise on this dominant market?

MD: As aforementioned, our work with AI will unlock a myriad of opportunities for us to further expand our team’s reach, and we will also work toward dominating other aspects/money streams that we have not historically focused on such as Paid Media, where we see healthy growth for us ahead.

SBC : Are there any upcoming launches in the United States that we should keep an eye on? 

MD: Clearly North Carolina (which is actually meant to happen before the event), which is the only major launch expected for the rest of 2024.  But there are numerous states we are watching, as you can see from our state legislative tracker on PlayUSA, and we don’t know if any of these will surprise us with a 2024 launch but if so, Catena Media will be ready for them.


Michael Daly is set to join the lineup of speakers at SBC Summit North America, participating in the ‘Affiliate Leaders: Building Brands through Content and Customisation’ panel. This session will delve into the analysis of what sets standout affiliates apart in the United States, emphasising how branding and compelling content serve as primary differentiators between industry leaders and others, facilitating robust connections with operators.

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