Disney is looking to expand more aggressively into sports betting, the company has admitted during its Q4 2021 earnings call. The news comes as a U-turn in the position of the family entertainment giant which has avoided association with gambling for years and led a pointed attempt to stop Florida from passing a sports gambling legalization in the past few years.
While ties with gambling were evident through broadcasting group ESPN’s programming, this is the first time Disney has openly detailed plans to venture beyond the Marvel and Star Wars franchises and into the world of sports gambling.
Disney Openly Mentions Sports Betting as Part of Future Plans
Commenting on these developments, Disney CEO Bob Chapek argued that the company is now actively looking to secure a bigger share in the online sports betting market. To get there, Disney will seek to partner with third parties and build meaningful relations, the executive added.
Growth in ESPN+ subscribers is one of the factors that has motivated Disney to explore this opportunity further. Sports present an enormous opportunity for engagement, Chapek admitted.
His remarks make sense, especially now that FuboTV, a streaming platform-cum-betting provider, has been able to successfully predicate its business model on driving engagement with sports fans. Both streaming and betting have proven useful tools to this end.
Besides, Disney has a five-year rights agreement with the NFL and has acquired the Monday Football games streaming rights, which makes it in a perfect position to capitalize on the momentum in sports growth.
Sports betting has played a crucial role in this market, and sportsbooks have brought in $5 billion in total wagers in September alone, owing to the rapid legalization of the industry and numerous ongoing sports competitions. Disney similarly has a seven-year deal with the NFL to broadcast 75 of the league’s games nationally and exclusively via the company’s ESPN+ and Hulu streaming offerings.
Reading the Evidence Spells a Betting Future for Disney
There is a lot happening in Disney’s corner right now. The company’s broadcasting network ESPN may be up for grabs by DraftKings and Caesars Entertainment, although there has not been any official confirmation.
Back in August, The Wall Street Journal speculated that ESPN may choose to sell its brand to sportsbook operators. The report was never confirmed, but the speculated price was listed as $3 billion by the media outlet. Front Office Sports has also been speculating about Disney potentially offloading, or rather spinning off, ESPN on at least one occasion.
Social Stigma Dissipates as Disney Preps for Gambling
This public flirtation with sports gambling is not out of the blue. The company has conducted extensive research to suggest that gambling no longer carries the same negative connotation as it did 10 or 20 years ago. Chapek explained that many of the people who were interested in gambling remotely were part of younger generations and they would end up replenishing the sports fans’ bases.
That target group, Chapek argued, already expects gambling as part of its sports experience. “We have been looking to get into gambling in a bigger way and ESPN is a perfect platform for this,” the chief executive admitted.
Naturally, Chapek and Disney have been concerned about how an association with gambling would impact its family-friendly window shop, but the research has indicated that there is nothing to suggest there would be brand withdrawal.
“Therefore, to go after that demographic opportunity plus the not insignificant revenue implications, that is something that we’re keenly interested in and are pursuing aggressively,” Chapek said in the end, confident in his company’s ability to enter this new vertical and deliver on results.