The Disney Corporation, main shareholder of sports network ESPN, is hard at work on creating an ESPN-branded sports-betting app and is expected to launch one before any move to sell the network is made. Those were the words of Disney CEO Bob Chapek during a fan event held last week in Anaheim, California.
According to Chapek, the availability of sports betting is something that he repeatedly hears raised as a priority for the company’s “younger” customers, a group he termed as being “35 and under”. Since the widespread introduction of sports betting in a number of US states, the younger demographic has been among the more enthusiastic adopters of online betting, meaning that an app with the imprint of a name like ESPN could attract a large audience.
The potential sale of ESPN, which has been mooted for some time, is now believed to have been deprioritized, and Chapek is leaning away from an early sale despite, in his words, having more than a hundred interested parties. It was indicated at the gathering that ESPN was considered to be a high-interest asset for potential buyers, and adding a betting brand to the slate would make it even more interesting to anyone who would eventually buy Disney’s shareholding.
Any future developments in this regard will be seen with particular interest given Disney’s connection to two specific states in the union. Parts of the business are located in California, where Chapek made his remarks, while the rest of the corporation is headquartered partly in Florida. Neither of these states, for the time being, has regulated sports betting of any kind – so it will be interesting to see whether Disney and ESPN bring their substantial lobbying power to any efforts to legalise betting in Florida, as well as to the upcoming referendums in California, which are now less than two months away.
It should not be missed that Chapek specifically referred to a younger audience in clarifying his remarks regarding a betting app. The under-35 demographic is taking on an increased level of importance within the industry, with the Betr platform recently launched by Jake Paul having been specifically targeted at this audience. Any further moves by betting companies to broaden their horizons are likely to be made with the under-35s in mind – and may take particular note of the growing popularity of in-game microbetting as demonstrated by the launch of Betr.