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Disney Signals Willingness to Embrace Gambling With ESPN

Riley Van Steward

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call that their research suggests the brand wouldn’t be tarnished if they coupled their ESPN products with gambling options.

“As we follow the consumer, we necessarily have to seriously consider getting into gambling in a bigger and bigger way,” said Chapek. “We’ve done substantial research in terms of the impact not only on the ESPN but the Disney brand changing perceptions of the acceptability of gambling. What we’re finding is that there’s a very significant insulation. Gambling does not have the [stigma] that it had 10-20 years ago. We had some concerns of the company about our ability to get in without having a brand withdrawal. I can tell you given all of the research that we’ve done recently that’s not the case. It actually strengthens the brand of ESPN when you have a betting component. It has no impact on the Disney brand.”

Chapek’s comments suggest brand image was the only concern holding Disney back from fully leveraging sports gambling as a revenue stream. If their internal research is as rock-solid as Chapek is suggesting, there’s nothing that will stop Disney from becoming a major player in betting.

That’s a warning signal for fuboTV. That company has been investing heavily in the gaming space, including the introduction of its first sportsbook product in Iowa. Yesterday, fuboTV announced their acquisition of an India-based AI company focused on sports analytics for the purpose of smart gambling. Fubo will have to move quickly to compete with Disney’s powerhouse resources when (not if) they decide to enter the sports gambling market.

“We do believe that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company. It is all driven by the consumer,” said Chapek. “It is driven by the consumer particularly the younger consumer that will replenish the sports fans over time. Their desire to have gambling as part of their sports experience. It is not necessarily a lean back. It is a little bit of a lean forward-type experience that they are looking for.”

Disney has used ESPN to extract value from cable companies and streaming services. Because of its sports rights, ESPN is a wildly expensive channel in any cable/streaming package, but carriers are reluctant to cut it because Disney can use the weight of its other networks (ABC, Disney Channel, FX) as leverage.

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ESPN+ is a live TV streaming service that gives access to thousands of live sporting events, original shows like Peyton’s Place, the entire library of 30 for 30, E:60, The Last Dance, as well exclusive written analysis from top ESPN insiders.

The service can be subscribed for US$ 6.99 / månad per month or annually for US$ 69.99 / år.

You will get a daily out-of-market game from MLB, and every out-of-market NHL and MLS game with NHL.TV and MLS LIVE.

The service has some of the most attractive soccer coverage including Bundesliga, LaLiga, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredevise and more.

College sports fans will be able to watch thousands of games and events including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf, and more.

For boxing and UFC fans, the service offers Top Rank boxing and will be the home of 15 exclusive UFC events.

ESPN+ now includes exclusive insights from analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay (which used to be part of ESPN Insider), as well as premium Fantasy Tools & PickCenter.

What it does not include is most live sports that air on ESPN och ESPN2.

To get access to those channels you have to subscribe to a live TV streaming service. We suggest reading our guide on How to Watch ESPN without Cable.