By: Joe Wisniewski
December 14, 2023
Photo Credit: ESPN BET
ESPN teamed up with PENN Entertainment, officially making ESPN the first mainstream media company to run its own sportsbook. By teaming with PENN, ESPN chose to work with an established book that had already been operating. ‘ESPN BET’ officially launched Tuesday, November 14, across the 17 states in which PENN operates online sports betting. Online bettors have been able to place wagers on an ESPN BET mobile app and website. On ESPN’s website, there is a small table with popular bets that, when clicked on, will prompt the user to ESPN BET. ESPN has officially begun promoting ESPN BET across all platforms, including on-air television promotions. Big name personalities like Scott Van Pelt and Pat Mcafee have promoted the new book on their programs, while speaking very highly of it.
While the move is mostly exciting, it certainly raises the question whether a mainstream media company should be allowed to operate its own sportsbook. While ESPN BET is the official sportsbook for ESPN, all reporters and league insiders will remain independent from ESPN BET. PENN Entertainment is managing all aspects of the sportsbook and will have no access to ESPN’s internal systems to ensure that no information is leaked to the risk room. ESPN released a statement indicating that reporters and insiders covering a specific sport can’t bet on it, and neither can employees in charge of managing relationships with those leagues. With that being said, ESPN employees are allowed to utilize the betting app (unlike Fanduel and Draftkings employees); however, it is only available in some states.
As the sports betting industry continues to grow this is a very smart move for ESPN. While struggling with the ongoing collapse of the cable industry, ESPN have set themselves up for success in a lucrative industry. The sportsbook made its first big splash on November 29th, announcing its official partnership with the NHL. As official league partners, ESPN BET and theScore Bet will have access to a host of entitlements, including IP rights, and media and marketing integrations across league programming and premium NHL experiences. The NHL Partnership is not the first of its kind for ESPN, but the deal will strengthen the relationship and build the brand legitimacy for the new sportsbook.
The long term question is how well ESPN and PENN are able to take over the well established names in the betting industry. Companies like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM already hold over 80 percent of the United States market share for sports betting operators. ESPN is trying to separate themselves from competitors by focusing on their user experience on the sportsbook, making sure things run smoothly so the live betting can work well. ESPN has the opportunity to tap into their large network of fans, and encourage those who haven’t before. With the name of ESPN slapped on it, the sportsbook has a more mainstream feel, potentially reducing the intimidation factor.