Disney and Sports Betting?
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek is reported as saying he wants to bring Disney into sports betting through its subsidiary company, ESPN, as a way to attract younger audiences and create new revenue streams.
Chapek said on a recent earnings call that Disney should “seriously consider getting into gambling in a bigger way, and ESPN is a perfect platform for this.”
The Wall Street Journal has reported that ESPN has been exploring brand licensing deals with Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings, after already entering a deal to link to their sportsbooks from ESPN.com.
Chapek went on to say that Disney is “moving towards a great 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.”
“It’s driven by the consumer,” he continued, “particularly the younger consumer that will replenish the sports fans over time and their desire to have gambling as part of their sports experience … As we follow the consumer ... we have to seriously consider getting into gambling in a bigger way."
Chapek said that he’s not worried about the association with gambling tarnishing the family-friendly Disney brand.
“Gambling does not have the cachet now that it had, say 10 or 20 years ago,” he said, “and 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. Therefore, to go after that demographic opportunity plus the, of course, not insignificant revenue implications, that is something that we’re keenly interested in and are pursuing aggressively.”
Disney was originally concerned about damage to its brand that could arise from ESPN’s entry to sports gambling, Chapek said to investors. But company research showed that betting partnerships would have "no impact" on the Disney brand, Chapek claimed, adding that a betting component could strengthen the ESPN brand, of which Disney owns an 80% stake.
In 2017, only 46% of poll respondents in the United States said sports gambling, including online sports betting, should be legal. But only four years later, the same poll revealed that 80% of American adults said they are in favor of the legalization of sports betting.
Advantage players, always on the lookout for new opportunities to win money from casinos and sportsbooks, generally look at the Disney developments as a positive factor. A full-time Las Vegas sports bettor commented, “There used to be far more competition among entities taking sports bets. Consolidation has killed off most of them now. It would be nice to see new companies entering the market.”
“CEO Bob Chapek Hoping to Bring Company Into Sports Betting Market” , Shannen Michaelsen, wdwnt.com, November 19, 2021.
“Disney CEO says sports-betting pursuits 'will have no impact' on the family-centric brand because of shifting attitudes toward gambling” , Hannah Towey, businessinsider.com, November 11, 2021.