In the wake of regulated sports betting in the United States, branded sportsbooks offer legacy media organizations a juicy opportunity to develop new revenue streams. Sports Illustrated has executed this model with some success but what about ESPN?
ESPN is, arguably, the most influential sports media voice in the world and its name on a sportbook could be an incredibly valuable opportunity.
But during comments made at the recent Sports Business Journal Conference in New York, ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said that the sports juggernaut had “no imminent plans” to develop its own branded sports betting site. This flies in the face of reports that were made just a couple months back that ESPN was on the verge of exactly that kind of deal.
Pitaro discussed ESPN’s potential entry into the gambling world in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter saying, “Yes, we’ve been exploring. We’ve had conversations with all the usual suspects and looking at what could be the logical next step for us,” he said said. “We are not going to, and I’ve said this repeatedly, we are not going to create a book. We’re not going to take people’s money. We are not going to set lines and spreads and odds. It’s not what we do. But the idea of leaning in a bit more here and creating a more seamless experience is something that’s definitely on the table.”
ESPN’s lean away from becoming an operator could be due to the influence of Bob Iger, the new CEO at Disney (ESPN’s parent company). Iger was Disney’s CEO from 2000-2005, an era when the company took a firm against sports betting. But while ESPN is staying out of sports betting today, there’s no guarantee they’ll stay out forevern.