The Walt Disney Company has always made sure that its content is kid and family-friendly. But with the changing times, the mass media and entertainment conglomerate is looking to put it hands on gambling.
At its annual Investors Day conference, Disney talked about ESPN’s partnership with Caesars Entertainment which integrates ESPN’s sports content with Caesars sports betting platform. According to Disney, it would “double-down” on that content integration for its ESPN+ platform in order to create a hub and to increase the channel’s appeal.
Per Roundhill Investments analyst Matias Dorta:
“Disney says sports betting is a focal point for the company, and it’s clear sports fans are gravitating to ESPN+, which, in turn, will introduce many viewers to the world of sports betting.”
The Struggles of ESPN+
Disney bought ESPN in 1996 and part of ESPN’s network is ESPN+ , the streaming platform of the sports network. Despite bearing the name of the “worldwide leader in sports”, ESPN+ has struggled compared to its compatriots Disney+ and Hulu.
ESPN+ has a total of 11.5M subscribers which is good. But Disney+ has 86.8M subscribers and Hulu 38.8M.With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the sports calendar, the struggles of ESPN+ has been highlighted.
In April, the sports network saw highly paid executives and on-air personalities take pay cuts to avert staff layoffs. Last month, ESPN announced that it will be cutting 300 jobs and will not be filling in 200 vacant positions. According to Disney, for ESPN+ to be profitable it needs to increase its subscription rate from the existing $5 per month to around $45-50. Aside from that, it needs to add at least 500,000 more subscribers.
Disney previously oppose efforts to expand the gaming industry in Florida with its Walt Disney World located in Orlando. Neither Florida nor California currently allow sports betting. Chairman Bob Iger said at the close of the 21st century that its was unlikely that Disney would push for sports betting. But now Iger is changing tunes and that’s not surprising.
Disney has existing partnerships with Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings. ESPN has a nightly show called “The Daily Wager” which gives viewers the the day’s best bets. ESPN also shows betting odds and lines for almost every sporting event on its bottom ticker. Segments like Bad Beats and Winner$ where the favorite bets and worst betting beats are discussed.
These shows and segments are already on ESPN and can easily be diverted to the ESPN+ paywall. Or Disney could come up with the same type of content for ESPN+. With the sports betting industry was worth $85B in 2019 and is expected to grow substantially with more states legalizing sports betting. Disney doesn’t want to miss on that opportunity.