Disney CEO Says That ESPN Will Never Handle Sports Bets

  • Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that ESPN will seek a betting partner to launch a sportsbook
  • Chapek implied as recently as last weekend that ESPN could be self-sufficient in gambling
  • ESPN’s President said this year that ESPN could be doing more to make clear its strategy
  • A spin-off of ESPN was discussed by investors but has lost momentum
ESPN logo on phone
ESPN and Disney are now looking for a third party to help them enter the world of sports betting. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Never in the cards

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Thursday that its affiliate sports network ESPN is searching for a partner to help it enter the sports betting market.

Now, we’re going to need a partner to do that, because we’re never going to be a book”

“We at ESPN have the ability to do that,” Chapek said in an interview with CNBC’s David Faber. “Now, we’re going to need a partner to do that, because we’re never going to be a book, that’s never in the cards for the Walt Disney Company—but at the same time, to be able to partner with a well-respected third party can do that for us.”

Chapek’s comments have created confusion about the direction of the company. He implied that ESPN was working on a betting app while speaking at the D23 expo last weekend, but the CEO has now implied that his firm will need a betting partner to go ahead with those plans.

Regardless, ESPN seems eager to join the world of wagering.

Conflicting stances

ESPN is one of the most successful sports networks in America and has a hold on various regions across the globe. As sports betting continues to skyrocket in popularity, its eventual integration with ESPN seems inevitable.

Earlier this year, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro told The Athletic that the company “can potentially be doing more” to set up its future plans in regards to sports betting. “We need to be serving the sports fan with what they’re expecting, and taking the friction out of the process,” Pitaro said. 

ESPN already has agreements with DraftKings Sportsbook and Caesars Sportsbook, allowing it to offer betting content on its platforms. If it were to either become or join forces with an operator, it would have an easier job converting its massive audience than other unrelated or startup companies.

ESPN spin-offs and other rumors

Recently, investor Daniel Loeb’s Third Point, an asset management firm, secured a new stake in Disney worth about $1bn, or 0.4% of the company.  Loeb previously campaigned for Disney to launch an ESPN spin-off, claiming that it would be easier to get involved in sports betting and other ventures. However, he has since recanted his opinion.

Loeb shared his new stance via Twitter:

Loeb’s tweet came shortly after Chapek’s comments at the D23 expo that foretold self-sufficiency.