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  • Writer's pictureNicole Dragon

Disney aims to expand ESPN with sports betting

By Nicole Dragon

November 29, 2021

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Disney has changed its stance on sports betting and is planning large moves for ESPN to capitalize on the market’s opportunity.

Disney, who formerly feared that entering the sports betting market would affect its family friendly image, is now looking into a $3 billion dollar licensing deal in partnership with established betting brands such as DraftKings and Caesar’s Entertainment. In doing so, it is looking to find ways to capitalize on the success it has already had with ESPN+, which has experienced a 66% increase in subscribers in the last fiscal year, putting subscriptions at 17.1 million.

The primary goal of this sports betting push is to bring a younger audience to ESPN that will generate an additional revenue stream for the company. ESPN has already been focusing on betting within its broadcasts via game streams that integrate live betting updates on screen. It also debuted a new TV program called “Daily Wager” for an NBA game earlier this year, which included a pregame show that previewed bets, commentators that discussed odds throughout the broadcast, and graphics that tracked live bets. As ESPN further develops its sport betting strategy, its subscribers can expect to see a lot more of these interactive “Daily Wager” broadcasts.

Dr. Dae Hee Kwak, a Sport Management professor and the director of the Center for Sport Marketing Research at the University of Michigan, believes that ESPN could utilize the sports betting market to promote its brand and thrive as a media company. He emphasized that “those who place bets on sports will at least watch highlights or game recaps,” and that “there may be a connection in that 66% [of increased viewership for ESPN+] and the increased interest in sport betting.” Dr. Kwak said that this is a great opportunity for ESPN to vertically integrate all aspects of the sport betting process, from broadcasts to live stats and even placing bets.

When talking about the consumer's place in this market, Dr. Kwak said that “people are betting and enjoying it and having fun...every month the sports betting companies are breaking revenue records. That is what the public is responding to.” He noticed the increasing popularity of sports gambling and how it adds another level of interactivity for sports fans that they did not have before. This new involvement for fans could possibly explain the increased viewership in the NFL as people are finding the game more exciting with betting as an added element.

Overall, Disney is taking a big step in expanding the presence of ESPN in the gambling industry, and it looks like it is headed in the right direction with sports betting.


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