We are now just days away from the launch of ESPN Bet. It’s a watershed day for the world’s largest and most prominent sports media company as they go all-in on sports betting and a day that would have been unthinkable just ten years ago. But with ESPN struggling for revenue streams and the tidal wave of sports betting platforms following their legalization in 2018, it might just be a matter of time.
ESPN will license its brand to Penn Entertainment in a billion-dollar deal to bring ESPN Bet to the masses in hopes it can compete with companies like DraftKings and FanDuel, which already have a big lead in market share.
At the recent ESPN Edge event, Penn CEO Jay Snowden was candid in sharing that diving into sports betting was something ESPN needed to do to keep fans on its platforms. If fans are leaving ESPN’s websites and apps to place a bet, it doesn’t make sense for their business. Why would ESPN lose fans and consumers that they could capture with their own sports betting operation?
Regarding the early conversations, Snowden explained, “It was crystal clear to me in that conversation that the ESPN sports fan who goes to ESPN’s product platforms every day to check scores and storylines and box scores is looking at the lines of these games.
“But when they’re ready to place a bet, they have to leave ESPN’s ecosystem and go somewhere else to place their bet. This is not something ESPN wants to do. This is something ESPN needs to do because sports fans demand that,” he added.
Similarly, for Penn, the ESPN partnership represents a huge opportunity to capture sports fans who may not be bettors just yet, hardly all of the states where sports betting has yet to be legalized. Penn’s previous partnership with Barstool may have provided some advantages, but partnering with the self-proclaimed global leader in sports brings their product to a whole new level of outreach and visibility.
“One of the things we’ve talked about a lot is that we’re looking to reach sports fans, not just sports bettors,” Snowden noted.
“This is not a business that targets sports bettors, it targets sports fans, and with the ESPN brand leading into our ecosystem and designing a distinct look and feel, this will be incredibly compelling to the market.”
He continued: “What’s really different for us is this deep integration behind the biggest sports media brand in the world, the sports fans who like to bet and want to bet and the trust factor, and being able to do that seamlessly is something we take very seriously.
Listening to Snowden, Penn clearly sees the launch of ESPN Bet and the partnership with Bristol as a win-win opportunity. We’ll soon find out how successful that partnership is when it launches on November 14th.