Disney, through ESPN, doubles down on sports betting

(NewsNation) — Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek says the company is “working very hard” developing a sports betting app for its ESPN brand at the Disney superfan D23 event in Anaheim, California over the weekend, Bloomberg reported Monday.

“There’s so many dimensions of sports and we’re passionate about it, and we have a plan,” Chapek said speaking to Deadline during the event.

“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,” he said.

Those who keep score in the sports world say the move would make sense, and that it would have minimal impact on the Disney brand.

“Disney is already tied to ESPN and there’s talks about spinoffs and connecting it with ESPN. They are the king, of course. That’s where everyone goes for their sports information. So I think it’s a natural marriage,” said Mike Randle of the Fantasy Football Takeaways (FTN) Network, speaking to NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Monday.

The news, however, follows reports speculating about a severance between the magical kingdom and the sports conglomerate, as Disney’s pivot to streaming is counterintuitive to ESPN’s linear TV model.

But over the weekend, Dan Loeb — a Disney investor who has been pushing a divestment of sorts — changed his position, tweeting he has “a better understanding” for what ESPN means for Disney’s growth potential “to reach a global audience to generate ad and subscriber revenues”.

Sports betting is clearly big business: The American Gaming Association says so far this year, more than $50 billion has been wagered on sports.

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It’s also now legal in more than half of all states, which, with the return of football season, one can safely assume will lead to more people are joining the field.

“Especially now for a complete football season. And people are now familiar with Draft Kings and they see all the different types of bets and content that we offer,” Johnny Avello of DraftKings told NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Monday.

And soon, a Disney-backed app could dive in and leverage the fast-growing pool of profits.

“I think it’s a natural connection. I think it’s a snowball; it’s going to continue to grow, and I think there’s great opportunity because the sports gambling world is budding across the country,” Randle said.

Among the five states now considering legalization are California and Florida, the homes of Disneyland and Disney World.