Walt Disney Corporation, notoriously conservative when it comes to protecting its brand, is said to be considering using ESPN as its entry point into the fast-growing and potentially hugely profitable online sports betting sector. In early November, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told analysts: “Given our reach and scale, we have the potential to partner with third parties in this space in a very meaningful way.”
But any decision to pursue a betting deal would represent a massive about-face for a company that has always dismissed sports betting, even at ESPN, as just “one more piece of its TV programming.”
But now Chapek has recently said: “We believe that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company.” And it is known that Disney has spoken with a handful of operators about a partnership, and it is clear that any list of suitors for the hand of this most iconic of brand owners. But clearly this prospect will present an awkward challenge for the wider Disney group, with its wholesome, family, child-centric image.
With major sports leagues and State Governments across the US now embracing sports betting, it may be that perceptions have moved far enough for ESPN, a Disney company, to enter the arena.