Gambling No Longer a Dirty Word at Disney and ESPN

Bob Chapek
Bob Chapek (Image credit: Disney)

The squeaky clean Walt Disney Co. is ready to dive into the gambling pool as sports betting becomes legal in more of the country.

Speaking on Disney’s earnings call Wednesday afternoon, CEO Bob Chapek said that Disney has studied how getting involved in betting will affect the brands of Disney and ESPN and found that there won’t be any damage.

“We’ve done substantial research in terms of the impact not only to the ESPN brand, but to the Disney brand in terms of consumers changing perceptions of the acceptability of gambling,” Chapek said. “What we’re finding is there’s a very significant insulation. Gambling does not have the cache now that it had say 10 or 20 year ago.”

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Chapek admitted Disney had concerns about gambling. “But I can tell you that given all the research that we’ve done recently, that is not the case," he said

Gambling “actually strengthens the broad of ESPN when you have a betting component and it has no impact on the Disney brand,” he said.

That means Disney is ready to push its chips into the pot. And that would be good particularly for ESPN.

He noted that the younger sports fans that ESPN needs to replace aging fans want gambling as part of their sports experience. On TV, that’s more of a lean forward type of experience, he said.

“As we follow the consumer, we necessarily have to seriously consider getting into gambling in a bigger and bigger way and ESPN’s the perfect platform for this," Chapek said.

Gambling offers the demographic opportunity to attract younger viewers, and also has “not insignificant revenue implications,” he said. “This is something that we’re keenly interested in and we are pursuing aggressively.”

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.