The Walt Disney Company, a family-oriented Fortune 500 company, is attracted by the idea of sports wagering and wishes to participate in the action.
On Tuesday, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told investors at a conference that the company intends to be “aggressive” in extending its footprint in sports betting. It is considering expanding licensing relationships with gambling companies via ESPN, the sports broadcasting behemoth.
ESPN has already struck partnerships with several of these organizations that enable it to frequently display point spreads and other betting lines during games. ABC, another Disney-owned network, has been doing the same thing with some of its sports programs.
When asked during the conference whether ESPN will go beyond licensing its name to gambling companies and fully integrate wagering into the company, Chapek declined.
“There’s a long way between being embedded into the ESPN business model and licensing out,” he said. “Let’s just say that our fans are really interested in sports betting. Let’s say that our partners — with the leagues — are interested in sports betting. So we’re interested in sports betting.”
Disney and ESPN appear to be at ease with the prospect of gambling agreements. There is plenty of money to be made. The cable television market is fraying. Disney wants to strengthen its ties with cord-cutting younger viewers, particularly those who prefer wagering on their mobile devices rather than walking into a brick-and-mortar casino or tracking down a back alley bookie.
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Disney has undoubtedly been aware of gambling’s destructive repercussions and has attempted to walk a tight line when it comes to wagering. As recently as 2019, Disney’s previous CEO, Bob Iger, stated that he did not see the corporation “getting involved in the business of gambling, in effect, by facilitating gambling in any way.” However, Iger, like Chapek, stated that the corporation felt comfortable cooperating with providers of betting information.
ESPN is now allegedly negotiating with sports betting companies such as Caesars Entertainment Inc. and DraftKings Inc. for licensing deals worth at least $3 billion. These deals could result in the establishment of ESPN-branded bookies. Additionally, Disney owns a sizable stake in DraftKings, and ESPN broadcasts a daily wagering special called the “Daily Wager.”