ESPN bets on sports gambling

ESPN bets big on gambling

Together with

The Future. ESPN is finally pushing in the chips on a sports betting partnership with PENN Entertainment. The deal represents a 180 for Disney — during his first stint as CEO, Bob Iger brushed off ESPN getting into betting because he thought it was off-brand for Disney. But times have changed, and Bob 2.0 may be betting ESPN’s gamble could take the brand to new heights… especially as its planned push into streaming could make the operation a simple user experience.

Team chip
PENN Entertainment has struck a 10-year, $1.5 billion deal (and $500 million in warrants) with ESPN to become the brand’s gambling operator.

  • PENN will get access to ESPN’s branding (media, marketing, and talent).
  • Meanwhile, ESPN will promote the betting service across its programming.

Why is Disney making this deal now after years of pushback? The money just seems too good to pass up, as seen by the success of platforms like FanDuel and DraftKings. And by working with PENN, ESPN technically isn’t the direct facilitator of the wagering — keeping what execs hope is an ethical, family-friendly distance.

Speaking of a family-friendly distance, PENN has sold Barstool Sports (which it recently acquired for $551 million) back to founder Dave Portnoy for one dollar, replacing its Barstool Sportsbook with the planned ESPN Bet. Why take such a loss? Disney surely didn’t want that headache as part of the partnership.


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