Disney and ESPN Evaluate Strategy to Enter Sports Betting Industry

Entertainment giant Disney is considering plans to become more “aggressive” about its presence in the sports betting market, CEO Bob Chapek told investors at a conference. The company is considering a closer licensing partnership with game operators through ESPN.

When asked whether ESPN would go beyond licensing its name to game companies, Chapek replied that “there is a long way to go between integrating into ESPN’s business model and licensing.”

The CEO continued: “Let’s say our fans really enjoy sports betting. Let’s say our partners – with the leagues – are interested in sports betting. Therefore, we are interested in ‘sports betting’.

ESPN already has deals with sports betting companies, having signed with operators Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings, allowing the media giant to present information and other betting lines during games.

Entering the gaming market offers revenue prospects for Disney and ESPN as more US states legalize sports betting. However, there is a potential for friction when Disney’s family-oriented public image is taken into account, although this may not be as much of an obstacle as you might expect.

“Strategically, sports betting allows us to attract a much younger sports fan with a very strong affinity for these games. So it’s definitely a place we want to be,” said Chapek.

ESPN would be looking for partners in the betting industry

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported on alleged talks between ESPN and potential bidders for a $3 billion gaming brand deal with a big sports bet. This agreement would give the chosen partner the option to use the ESPN name for branding purposes.

Chapek didn’t provide details about partners, or details about potential deals, though he said ESPN is “starting to take some very important steps along that path.” In August, media speculation reported that the entertainment giant had already held talks with Caesars and Draftkings.

Disney changed its view on the game industry

The company has a valuable brand and an extensive customer database, which may be of potential interest in a partnership. Disney’s current shift toward a more positive view of the game contrasts with the position the company occupied years ago.

In 2019, former CEO Bob Iger said he didn’t see Disney getting involved in the gaming business or “making it easy to play at all.” But ESPN already features game-related content on certain attractions, podcasts and television shows, such as “Daily Wager.”

While ESPN has not yet entered the gaming industry, rival Fox Sports has already done so with bookmaker Fox Bet.