Walt Disney has never tried to enter into anything taboo over the course of the companies history. With multiple brands, including ESPN, under its wing, Disney has made sure that the content that has been produced is as a kid and family-oriented as possible.
When sports betting started to become more mainstream, some companies began jumping on early, knowing the potential of what nationwide sports betting could do to the sports and content industry. Disney was one of the companies that were unwilling to get into the subject, but now that has changed.
Disney is looking to expand its ESPN+ services after the new venture has not been as lucrative as it has hoped. They will be using the platform for more sports betting content in hopes of bringing in more viewers. Disney believes it can leverage the up and coming industry with ESPN+ to hit its 12 million subscribers goal by 2024.
ESPN Going in on Sports Betting
Disney needs to move on to ESPN+ as the subscription-based platform is not performing compared to Hulu (38.8 million) and Disney+ (86.8 million).
The company has reported that to have ESPN+ profitable. It needs to be closer to $45-$50 per month than the $5 a month subscription it is currently and pick up an additional 500,000 subscribers. Disney hopes that adding sports betting content to the ESPN+ subscription will make the sports-based subscription platform more lucrative.
ESPN has deals with Caesar’s and DraftKings, which hopes to help with sports betting content. ESPN has ‘The Daily Wager,’ which is a nightly show giving viewers the day’s best bets, but will most likely expand to more betting content in the future.
ESPN also shows odds and lines for almost every sporting event on the bottom ticker. Even when games are being discussed on a show like ‘Sportscenter,’ the odds are on screen for viewers to see. Scott Van Pelt even has weekly segments like Bad Beats and Winner$, where he discusses the week’s worst betting beats and his favorite bets for the upcoming football weekend.
These segments and shows are already on ESPN platforms to view, but they could be going behind the ESPN+ paywall in the future, or Disney and ESPN could be adding similar content to ESPN+.
The Issue with ESPN and Disney
As the world becomes more digital, ESPN could become more of a dying breed over the next decade. Fortunately, live sports are the last thing that media companies are looking to take on as it brings eyeballs and ads in real-time.
With Disney not wanting to enter the sports betting ‘taboo’ so early, it might have cost the company long-term. Multiple media outlets and sports betting media companies have emerged over the recent years, and although ESPN is the ‘World Wide Leader in Sports,’ it might not be in sports betting.
“I don’t see The Walt Disney Company, certainly in the near term, getting involved in the business of gambling, in effect, by facilitating gambling in any way,” said Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Company.
According to Iger, Disney wants to go all-in on sports betting, but it seems like that means dipping its toe in. The parent company is still family-friendly oriented, so it’s hard to see ESPN making a full pivot towards the industry.
ESPN might have missed the boat as keeping up with sports content, and it could cost them down the road.