Over the last few months, rumors of ESPN expanding their presence in the sports betting industry have been gaining steam. Apparently, some pundits and insiders believe that the world’s premier leader in sports will build off their expanded sports betting coverage to establish their own sports betting platform. It’s been speculated that ESPN could follow what DraftKings or FanDuel have done by creating a sports betting niche within their established ESPN app and fantasy gaming.
These rumors and speculations have had enough legs under them that the CEO of Walt Disney, Bob Iger, publicly addressed this topic in the company’s recent earnings call. Keep in mind, The Walt Disney Company owns ESPN and ultimately makes the final decisions on matters like this. Iger went on to say:
“I don’t see The Walt Disney Company, certainly in the near term, getting involved in the business of gambling, in effect, by facilitating gambling in any way.”
Iger’s comments of “facilitating gambling in any way,” is in regards to the Walt Disney Company or any of its owned entities like ESPN creating a sports betting app or purchasing a sportsbook. In other words, Mickey Mouse isn’t going to become a bookie anytime in the near future. However, that doesn’t mean that ESPN can’t continue to cover sports betting:
“I do think that there’s plenty of room, and ESPN has done some of this already and they may do more to provide information in coverage of sports, as a for instance, that would be relevant to and of particular interest to gambling and not be shy about it, basically being fairly overt about it. But getting into the business of gambling, I rather doubt it.”
It should be noted that covering sports betting has become a big money industry. For example, Bleacher Report has seen significant growth in visitors and revenue as they’ve increased their coverage of sports betting. Furthermore, Turner Sports just signed a deal with Caesars Entertainment to create a studio show for Bleacher Report’s sports betting coverage. This is another sign of the increasing sentiment that sports betting is a huge moneymaker for entities that cover sports.
Although ESPN has begun to include more sports betting details into their TV, streaming, and online coverage, they still lack a significant voice within this industry. As other companies like Bleacher Report and The Action Network increase in popularity due to their sports betting coverage, ESPN is losing out on a growing audience and revenue. We’ll see how Disney and ESPN react to this idea after the majority of the United States end up legalizing sports betting within the next few years.
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