Penn-Powered ESPN Bet Slated for November Rollout as Disney Turns 100

  • Penn’s Snowden, ESPN’s Morrison revealed the launch at G2E in Las Vegas  
  • ESPN Bet’s rollout date strategy is to attract bettors down on promotional dollars
  • Stifel’s Wieczynski said ESPN Bet’s marketing spend will match rival sportsbooks
  • Disney CEO Chapek once stated that ESPN was “never going to be a book”
Mickey Mouse statue
Disney has set November as the month for its much-anticipated sports betting market debut via ESPN Bet. [Image:]

Disney celebrates centennial

The Walt Disney Company has marked its 100th anniversary by letting slip it will launch its Penn Entertainment-powered ESPN Bet in November.

X user Peter McCorkle on Monday shared the news with an image of the Wall Street Journal headlined “Disney Agonized About Sports Betting. Now It’s Going All In”:

Being a brand with family appeal, the House of the Mouse has not yet released anything official about its November mobile sports betting debut.

Instead, according to the WSJ, the news was “leaked” by Penn CEO Jay Snowden and ESPN VP of Sports Betting and Fantasy Mike Morrison at last week’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

In sharing “additional color” about the blossoming partnership between Penn and Disney, the two execs revealed the November launch of ESPN Bet as the two firms intend to take their ten-year deal to “the next level.”  

All eyes on ESPN Bet

The announcement is huge in many ways. While many sports betting competitors have bitten the dust, Disney’s entrance looks set to shake up the industry given its sub-brand ESPN’s stature as a popular sports channel with a huge fanbase.

The partnership’s strategy behind a November launch seems practical, with Snowden positing that bettors down on their promotional dollars from betting since the sports seasons started were “more likely to give ESPN Bet a try.”

Penn’s partnership with Disney began in August when it announced it would pay ESPN $2bn in total to create ESPN Bet. The tie-up is, so far, a total contrast to Penn’s toxic sports betting ex-partnership with Barstool Sports, a disaster acquisition sold for only pennies after costing Penn $51m.

Steve Wieczynski of Stifel stated Pennsylvania-based Penn was ready for the marketing battle ahead in that it “will spend about the same” as rival sportsbooks. Wieczynsk added that the marketing spend will be incremental to both “the $150 million annual payment to ESPN and $150 million earmarked for ads.”

could “lag behind DraftKings and FanDuel”

Snowden also told investors at G2E that while most features on ESPN Bet should be available upon rollout, the sportsbook could “lag behind DraftKings and FanDuel in hold at first given their more sophisticated same-game parlay” markets.

Potential game changer

As X user McCorkle and the WSJ Exchange headline reveal, the Burbank, California brand synonymous with Bambi and Mickey Mouse was always going to attract naysayers in its pivot to sports betting.

Central to the WSJ’s article on ESPN Bet was Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s confusing statement in 2022 that his firm’s Worldwide Leader in Sports affiliate was “never going to be a book,” and that it would enter the sports betting market with “a well-respected third party.”

Regardless of what Chapek said in the past, Disney’s move in its 100th anniversary year might shape the future of US sports betting.

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