A few weeks ago Disney revelaed its plans to enter the sports betting space through a partnership with ESPN. Following the announcement, rumors started spreading about a $3b media deal that would position Disney as one of the key players in the fast-growing sports betting industry.
Chief executive Bob Chapek explained that “sports betting gives us the ability to appeal to a much younger sports fan who has a very strong affinity for those sports”, which caused some stir outside the industry. As expected, the objections to becoming involved in the sector are largely rooted in Disney’s family-friendly image and generally conservative values.
However, despite Disney previously having an anti-gambling stance, especially given that they had slot games featuring the Marvel brand removed once they had acquired the franchise, it would seem that the company – which is owned by ESPN – are now looking to explore the sports betting industry and are taking “aggressive” moves according to the latest reports that have been published.
As recently as August, it had been claimed that the Walt Disney Company was in talks to license its ESPN brand to casino operators Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings. Although nothing has been confirmed or even finalized at this juncture, the move – which is valued to be worth around $3 billion – shows that there are plans to enter the market.
The main aim of bringing gambling into the Disney corporation is to expand their ESPN arm and strategically place themselves in a position where they can target a younger sports betting audience.
Disney are moving cautiously, though
Whilst there appears to be a call from investors within the company for the move to happen, it does seem as though Disney is looking to move cautiously and as effectively as they can into the gambling industry without potentially damaging their reputation.
CEO Bob Chapek has already implied that the company is trying to find a way of embedding betting practices directly into ESPN, with it being considered that there is still a very long time to go before that has to happen.
Instead, it is thought that they will go down a route whereby they will give sportsbooks access to the branding that they can offer as ESPN, whilst also capping the buyer spend of advertising dollars on the platforms currently owned by ESPN.
However, one of the biggest issues that they may find is the differences in legality of sports betting within a number of the states across America. It is understood that 22 states currently accept some form of sports wagering whilst a further 18 are considering it. However, seven states still have the activity banned, whilst three are none the wiser about what they want to do.
This could mean that Disney decides to license a brand name such as ESPN to a sportsbook, which could then save their brand from immediate negative connotations that they had initially wanted to avoid facing before.