As sports wagering practices become more common across the United States, some of the world’s biggest players are getting in on the action. Recently, Disney’s CEO, Bob Chapek, has been speaking out regarding the organisation’s plans to push into the sports betting industry through the ESPN platform. Since the late 1990s, Disney has owned ESPN’s ‘parent’ majority owner, ABC, and now it seems that the firm seeks to leverage that ownership in a different way.
For the most part, the $19 billion that Disney invested in the acquisition of ABC has paid off greatly. Today, ESPN, for example, is one of the most recognisable sporting organisations on the planet. As it’s perfectly placed in the space to take advantage of a push into wagering, Chapek has very publicly voiced his approval of a move into sports betting. However, this isn’t the first time Chapek has discussed the topic, and in some ways, it muddies the waters, based on what he’s said previously.
Could Disney Enter The Sports Betting Market?
At the D23 expo, one of the biggest Disney events in the world, Chapek spoke about the future of sports wagering at Disney. Reportedly, he was very open when answering a question regarding the development of an ESPN-branded sports betting app. In a clear statement, Chapek simply said:
‘We’re working very hard on that.’
Then, just days later, on Thursday, September 15th, Chapek explained that ‘the Walt Disney Company’ wouldn’t become directly involved in sports wagering. But, he did highlight that a partnership with ESPN at the core is certainly a possibility:
‘We at ESPN have the ability to do that. Now we’re going to need a partner to do that, because we’re never going to be a book, that’s never going to be 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.’
This statement came shortly after an ESPN spokesperson cleared the air after D23, explaining that there were no tangible updates on its plans to enter the sports wagering market. Although, Chapek’s latest statement does mirror a quote taken from a Disney conference call that took place earlier in August. During this call, Chapek went on file as saying, “… we hope to have something to announce in the future in terms of a partnership there that will allow us to access that revenue stream.”
Perhaps the key takeaway from Chapek’s talk at D23 is the suggestion that there is a positive reception to the idea that Disney could enter the US sports betting market:
‘Sports betting is a part of what our younger, say, under-35 sports audience is telling us they want as part of their sports lifestyle.’
It seems that Disney would be the worst company in the world to adopt a sports betting focus, given its generally young, impressionable demographic. However, through ESPN, a more mature organisation rooted firmly in the traditional sports industry, a partnership could be struck up that brings another revenue stream into the firm through a betting app.