Disney has been one of the key opponents of legalizing sports betting in states like Florida, arguing that the Sunshine State is a place for family and friends. Over the years, not even Disney has been able to resist the pull of interactive wagering that washed over the US and has so far had over 30 states push sports gambling laws on fairly short notice.
Through sports network ESPN, in which The Wall Disney Company is a majority owner with an 80% stake, Disney has been airing sports betting content which has been hugely successful. ESPN has cultivated talented sports insiders and attracted many names from inside the world of sports to offer breaking coverage.
Distancing Itself Off or Exploring New Opportunities?
Programming such as The Daily Wager has sent an unequivocal message as to where ESPN stands on sports betting and it clearly embraces it. Reports by Front Office Sports, though, suggest that Disney may not be entirely happy with the association. But instead of quitting a multi-billion industry, the company is simply looking to put a small distance between itself and the growingly ESPN Inc.
According to Puck, another media outlet, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that he had asked consultants to explore the options for an ESPN spinoff. Reportedly, private equity firms have already approached Disney to offer their services on what could be a big move for the company. However, a Bloomberg article cited an anonymous source within Disney who called these reports inaccurate.
Freeing up ESPN’s Potential without Remorse
Meanwhile, there are some logistics to figure out. For starters, ESPN could be freer to embrace sports gambling without any fear of repercussions to its reputation or that of the parent company.
Not only that, but ESPN is reportedly looking to set up its own sports betting platform in a deal that is said to cost $3 billion. However, the sports company has made no official statement to substantiate the report which originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
Disney may also be keen to overcome what Chapek described as constraints when commenting on current rights contracts back in August and talking about bringing Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu’s assets under the same roof. A spinoff might help solve some of that.