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ESPN Bet to launch on 14 November

| By Richard Mulligan
ESPN Bet, the gaming brand backed by the sports broadcasting giant, is to launch across 17 US states on 14 November.

Penn Entertainment, which will operate the brand, made the announcement in its Q3 trading update, published earlier today. ESPN Bet’s launch is the product of a $1.5bn (£1.2bn/€1.4bn) partnership with Disney-owned ESPN, the largest sports media brand in the US. When the deal was announced in August, Penn said the brand – which replaces its Barstool Sports operation – could add up to $1.0bn to its long-term adjusted EBITDA potential.

ESPN Bet’s logo

The 14 November debut has been timed to coincide with the busy sports calendar during Thanksgiving week. Highlights include NCAA college football rivalry week and the Super Bowl rematch of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles televised on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Jay Snowden, Penn’s CEO and president, said: “This strategic alliance is expected to further expand our digital ecosystem and drive re-engagement with the millions of customers in our digital and retail databases, leading to compelling cross-sell opportunities.”

Penn has betting licences in 17 states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio. It has previously said it is targeting a 20% share of the US online sports betting market through ESPN Bet.

Targeting ESPN’s 200m followers

ESPN will be implementing an initial wave of integrations targeting an estimated audience of 200 million across linear and digital platforms. This will include an advertising campaign headlined by SportsCenter anchors Scott van Pelt and Elle Duncan.

Penn said it will be expanding platform and media integrations with ESPN over the upcoming months. It said the brands aim to provide a combined media and betting experience designed to appeal to sports fans across the country.

ESPN is the largest sports media brand in the US, with over 105 million monthly unique digital visitors. Its social media presence tops 370 million fans and 25 million subscribe to its ESPN+ streaming service. ESPN is also the biggest brand on TikTok with 41 million followers worldwide.

As well as the states previously mentioned, ESPN Bet will also launch in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Penn said today the launches in each state would be subject to final approvals.

Barstool sold back to founder Portnoy for $1

Penn began rebranding its betting offering as Barstool Sportsbook in 2020. It acquired the business outright earlier this year in a deal which valued Barstool at $500m.

Following the ESPN deal, Penn sold 100% of the outstanding shares of Barstool to the brand’s founder David Portnoy for just $1. The deal also included non-compete and other restrictive covenants. Penn retains rights to 50% of gross proceeds from any subsequent sale or monetisation event around the brand.

Confirmation of the launch date comes as Penn also announces its Q3 results. The headline figure for the quarter is a $724.8m loss, caused by the divesture of Barstool in August.

Penn posted revenue of $196.3m for its interactive gaming segment in Q3, which was up 24.0%. Adjusted EBITDA for the segment was a loss of $50.2m. It said Q3 results reflected curtailed marketing in the US as it prepared to transition to the ESPN Bet brand.

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