Disney CEO admits ‘very significant’ sports betting opportunity

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has acknowledged that its sports broadcasting platform ESPN is the ‘perfect’ place for sports betting and as such the corporation has a ‘very significant opportunity’ in the gambling market.

Speaking on Disney’s fourth quarter results call for the period ended 30 September, Chapek stated that the company will expand into the sports betting market through its ESPN platform: “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 business, which saw ESPN+ subscribers increased by 66% over the past fiscal year alone.”

When questioned on a potential move into sports betting, Chapek noted that any move which Disney makes will be ‘driven by the consumer’, adding the company has already done ‘substantial research’ into the industry.

He commented: “We do believe that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company. And it’s all driven by the consumer.

“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. It’s not necessarily a lean-back. It’s a little bit of a lean-forward-type experience that they’re looking for. And as we follow the consumer, we necessarily have to seriously consider getting into gambling in a bigger way. And ESPN is a perfect platform for this.”

Chapek continued: “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. And what we’re finding is that there is a very significant installation. Gambling does not have the cache now that it had, say, 10 or 20 years ago.

“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.”

ESPN is already in the sports betting marketplace, as the platform entered into two separate multi-year agreements with Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings last year. Both deals include co-exclusive link integrations across ESPN digital platforms connecting fans to sportsbooks from Caesars Entertainment’s sports betting brand William Hill, and DraftKings. 

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