This was announced on Disney’s fourth quarter results call for the period ended September 30.
Chapek stressed that ESPN’s influence in the world of sports media would be an asset as the company looks into sports betting.
“We’re also moving toward a greater presence in online sports betting,” said Chapek. “And given our reach and scale, we have the potential to partner with third parties in this space in a very meaningful way.”
“Suffice to say, we continue to see enormous opportunity in sports and all of this, the rights deals, our innovative programming and the flexibility achieved through our DTC [direct-to-consumer] business, which saw ESPN+ subscribers increased by 66% over the past fiscal year alone.”
When asked to expand upon the potential move into sports betting, Chapek said it would be driven by consumer trends.
“We do believe that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company,” responded Chapek. “And it’s all driven by the consumer.”
“And as we follow the consumer, we necessarily have to seriously consider getting into gambling in a bigger way. ESPN is a perfect platform for this.”
Chapek added that Disney had considered the effects of this potential move in terms of company perception.
“We have done substantial research in terms of the impact to, not only the ESPN brand, but the Disney brand in terms of consumers’ changing perceptions of the acceptability of gambling.”
“And what we’re finding is that there is a very significant installation. Gambling does not have the cachet now that it had, say, 10 or 20 years ago.”
Chapek ultimately argued that the presence of a sports betting operation would boost the ESPN brand without a negative impact on the wider Disney brand.
“We have some concerns as a company about our ability to get in it without having a brand withdrawal,” Chapek said.
“But I can tell you that given all the research that we’ve done recently that that is not the case. It actually strengthens the brand of ESPN when you have a betting component, and it has no impact on the Disney brand.”
In September 2020 ESPN entered a deal with DraftKings to promote its daily fantasy sport updates, and a deal with William Hill – which was later acquired by Caesars – to show its betting odds.