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Disney, now bullish on betting, will lean on ESPN to kickstart its entry

Disney is "taking a gamble on sports betting," and the company will "use ESPN as its entry point into the fast-growing sector," according to Weprin & Szalai of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The decision to pursue a multibillion-dollar betting deal is "something of a strategic pivot for the company," which for years said that the "only role sports betting had at ESPN was as one more piece of its TV programming." A former ESPN exec said that the company’s "family-friendly image has always been top-of-mind," noting that the company "waited longer than some competitors to accept ads from sports betting firms and that even today the company isn’t running ads from cryptocurrency trading companies." But Weprin & Szalai note gradually, the "perception of sports betting has changed." Changing consumer habits is "one piece of the puzzle," as ESPN+ is "all but certain to add gamification functionality in the future as it seeks to grow engagement and its subscriber base." The major sports leagues also "all got on board." Disney CEO Bob Chapek during a Nov. 10 earnings call said, “It actually strengthens the brand of ESPN when you have a betting component, and it has no impact on the Disney brand.” But Weprin & Szalai wondered, "Is Disney late to the party?" Vogel Capital Management CEO Hal Vogel said Disney is "already starting from behind many others." Sources confirmed that Disney has "held talks with a handful of betting operators about a partnership." BetMGM, Caesars and DraftKings are "all seen as frontrunners" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 11/17).

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