The annual Disney D23 Expo is usually a time to reveal a new Star Wars cast member or announce the schedule for the latest slate of Marvel movies, but this weekend’s event led to a big announcement related to sports betting.
As Bloomberg reported, Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke openly about the company’s involvement with sports betting, particulary ESPN. Typically the company has kept mum on the issue given the Disney brand has historically avoided gambling. Chapek was very forthright in his comments though.
Chapek says an ESPN sportsbook is in the works
Chapek has been much more open to the idea than his predecessor Bob Iger though. In an earnings call last year he noted the importance of being involved in sports betting. However, at that time, he was speaking more about continuing partnerships with sports betting companies as opposed to working as an operator. This weekend’s comments suggest he might have changed his tune.
“Sports betting is a part of what our younger, say, under-35 sports audience is telling us they want as part of their sports lifestyle,” Chapek said.
When asked specifically about the possibility of ESPN getting into the game with its own sportsbook, Chapek was more than open to the idea.
“We’re working very hard on that.”
When broached about the idea of selling off the sports side of the business, Chapek shot down ideas. Moreover, he did so by explaining that sports betting is a big part of the reason to hold onto the business.
“If you have a house that you’re gonna put up for sale and you have a hundred buyers, you probably got a pretty cool house,” he said.
ESPN brand has strong association with betting already
Chapek is correct that the appeal of the ESPN brand extends to sports bettors. A recent poll by OddsAssist found that 3 out of 4 bettors would patronize an ESPN sportsbook.
While the reality of that has not yet come to fruition, ESPN continues to expand and embrace sports betting across all of its media arms. In advance of the NFL season, the network announced a wide range of new betting content on TV, radio, and digital.