“We’re Never Going To Be A Book”
After a month of speculation and wondering, Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek reiterated on Sept. 15 that sports betting is in ESPN’s plans for the future. However, the plans do not include an involvement in bookmaking directly.
In response to how ESPN would step into bookmaking Chapek told CNBC, “now we’re going to need a partner to do that, because we’re never going to be a book, that’s never in the cards for the Walt Disney Company…but at the same time, to be able to partner with a well-respected third party can do that for us.”
At the Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology Conference this week, Chapek expanded on the idea. “Putting a link out, for example, which would probably be the most likely application…a link out to a sports betting site, ESPN-branded, would have no impact on brand equity for Disney but will have a very positive impact on the brand equity for ESPN because our younger audience is demanding that,” he said.
“You can also look at the tremendous benefits that live sports brings to the company, whether it’s from an advertising standpoint or from an audience standpoint or from a fandom standpoint,” he continued.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek today on ESPN's plan re: sports betting (via @CNBC):
“We’re never going to be a book, that’s never in the cards for the Walt Disney Company.”
— Ben Fawkes (@BFawkes22) September 15, 2022
This announcement comes just one month after Chapek first touched on the possibility of sports betting at ESPN and what it could entail. He noted his ambitions to join the space was fueled by his desire to add “utility” to sports betting and take away the “friction” for ESPN’s viewers.
He had also noted that he was hopeful to make an announcement regarding an updated outlook in the near future. While this week’s announcement could be that, it’s relatively vague in terms of any solid plan so there’s likely more to come down the road.
Also last month, activist investor Daniel Loeb announced that his hedge fund, Third Point, took a stake in Disney, valued at about $1 billion. Initial intentions were to separate the ESPN entity from Disney in order to pursue sports wagering opportunities more seriously. But, last week, Loeb had a change of heart. He took to Twitter to say, “we have a better understanding of @espn’s potential as a standalone business and another vertical for $DIS to reach a global audience to generate ad and subscriber revenues.”
Now that's brotherly love ❤️
— ESPN (@espn) September 15, 2022
ESPN, No Stranger To Sports Betting
It’s unclear how a new third-party sports betting partnership would directly materialize into success for ESPN. However, since 2020, the sports media giant has had partnerships in place with both Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings. The two, separate multi-year agreements include link integrations across ESPN digital platforms that provide odds to the network.
This allowed their sportsbooks to be advertised on ESPN’s media and links to direct viewers directly to the sportsbooks. This partnership in 2020 marked the first time in history that a deal like this had ever been reached. This, of course, has changed drastically since then as hundreds of companies have now followed suit.