The legal US sports betting industry is growing and expanding at an unprecedented rate. By the end of this year, as many as 30 states could be offering legal sports betting in some form.
The entire industry is also quickly evolving with more and more new players entering the mix. With revenue projections in the billions, the US market is attracting quite a bit of attention on a global scale.
FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM have been able to grab the early lion’s share of the market as the three biggest sportsbook operators. However, there is a long list of competitors lining up to make a run at the three market leaders.
Joining that list are a few sports media properties with deep pockets. In Canada, theScore is considered to be the equivalent of ESPN in the United States. This media property has partnered with Penn National Gaming. Together, they launched theScore Bet mobile sportsbook app.
FOX Sports joined forces with the StarsGroup to launch FOX Bet. William Hill Sportsbook was recently acquired by Caesars Entertainment. Prior to that, the UK-based sportsbook formed a strategic partnership with CBS Sports.
Bally Bet is a result of an agreement between Bally’s Corp and the Sinclair Broadcast Group. This deal covers 19 regional sports networks. More recently, 888 Holdings signed a deal with Sports Illustrated with plans to launch the SI Sportsbook mobile app later this year.
The list of collaborations between sports media companies and sports betting companies goes on and on. This has raised speculation that ESPN may be the next sports media giant to take the plunge.
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Given the fact that ESPN’s parent company is the Walt Disney Corporation, this could be what is holding back the biggest sports media player of them all.
The network has added a sports betting twist to its programming. ESPN has also formed business relationships with DraftKings and William Hill via Caesars.
However, it has yet to create any direct affiliations with a sports betting company. Industry insiders believe this is about to change.
Bob Chapek is Disney’s CEO. His stance on sports betting does open the door after stating that the company does see it “as an opportunity” that represents “very little risk to the company and very little risk to ESPN.”
These sentiments were part of an earnings call back in April. He also mentioned that the company does have “a greater appetite to do more and more in that area.”
Taking things one step further, more than a few people close to the situation believe that ESPN is seriously exploring the idea of launching its own sports betting app. This will also likely not be a betting exchange in the essence of apps such as Sporttrade.
Disney does hold a 6% stake in DraftKings as a result of its acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The ties to William Hill via Caesars are related to a new ESPN studio at the LINQ hotel in Las Vegas. This is home to a new sports betting show on ESPN2 called “Daily Wager.”
Time will tell just how deep of a plunge ESPN takes into the sports betting industry. Yet, any further hesitation to go “all in” will undoubtedly put this sports media giant at a further competitive disadvantage.