In one of the more unlikely US sports betting news stories of the week, Disney have signalled their intent to enter the industry as markets open throughout the territory.
According to Bob Chapek, who is CEO of the international entertainment and media conglomerate, the company will “aggressively pursue” opportunities within sports betting through ESPN.
Chapek said: “We’re also moving toward a greater presence in online sports betting. And given our reach and scale, we have the potential to partner with third parties in this space in a very meaningful way.
“Suffice to say, we continue to see enormous opportunity in sports and all of this, the rights deals, our innovative programming and the flexibility achieved through our DTC [direct-to-consumer] business, which saw ESPN+ subscribers increased by 66% over the past fiscal year alone.”
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Disney has already dipped their toe into the sports betting world with deals signed in September 2020. Last year, ESPN signed a deal with DraftKings to promote their daily fantasy sports platform, while they also signed a deal with William Hill to show their betting odds.
A number of broadcasters have begun signing partnership deals with sportsbooks, including Madison Square Garden. They have signed a multi-year marketing partnership with BetMGM, which will see them receive “significant exposure throughout Knicks and Rangers games at The Garden” and will also be “featured throughout Knicks, Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders broadcasts on MSG Networks”.
Chapek believes sports betting can help ESPN attract a younger audience, as well as creating multiple new revenue streams for the company.
“We do believe that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company, and it’s all driven by the consumer,” he added.
“It’s driven by the consumer, particularly the younger consumer that will replenish the sports fans over time and their desire to have gambling as part of their sports experience.”
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Fears that Disney’s brand could take a hit as a result of their association with sports gambling have been taken into account, but they are confident that the stigma that was once attached has softened in recent years throughout society.
“We have done substantial research in terms of the impact to, not only the ESPN brand, but the Disney brand in terms of consumers’ changing perceptions of the acceptability of gambling,” Chapek continued.
“And what we’re finding is that there is a very significant installation. Gambling does not have the cachet now that it had, say, 10 or 20 years ago.”
“We have some concerns as a company about our ability to get in it without having a brand withdrawal. But I can tell you that given all the research that we’ve done recently that that is not the case. It actually strengthens the brand of ESPN when you have a betting component, and it has no impact on the Disney brand.”