Disney has announced plans to expand into the sports betting market. This is a departure from their previous position as a large donor to FL anti-gambling advocacy groups.

  • Walt Disney Corporation CEO Bob Chapek announced Disney’s plans to “aggressively expand” into the sports betting world during the company’s Q4 earnings call.
  • The announcement is a reversal of Disney’s current position, as they have spent over $2.3 million in contributions to Florida’s top anti-sports-betting advocacy group.

BURBANK, Calif. – After leading an effort to prevent the establishment of a legalized and regulated sports betting industry in Florida, the Walt Disney Corporation has seemingly reversed their position. Announced during their Q4 earnings call, they are looking to aggressively expand into the sports betting arena.

As of September 30, Disney provided $2.325 million to Voters In Charge, the leading organization fighting against the newly-legalized sports betting industry in Florida.

These contributions may be coming to an end shortly, however, as Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that the company is looking to secure a larger share in the sports betting market.

Its subsidiary, ESPN, is the leading sports media company in the United States and holds several exclusivity agreements and broadcast agreements across multiple major professional and amatuer sports leagues.

“We’re also moving towards a greater presence in online sports betting, and given our reach and scale, we have the potential to partner with third-parties in this space in a very meaningful way,” Chapek said during the call.

Sports Viewership Buoying Disney’s Bottom Line

This development was a long way in the making. Disney reported a slow year overall, failing to reach Wall Street’s projections; however, the lone bright spot was sports.

ESPN+, the company’s sports streaming service, saw memberships increase 66% in the fiscal year; even more encouragingly, 90% of the most-watched broadcasts on Disney-owned TV networks were sporting events.

The ownership of ESPN would play a major role in Disney’s efforts in driving sports bettors to their services.

On top of that, one of Disney’s primary concerns was to ensure that their association with the sports betting industry would not negatively impact the company’s family-friendly public perception. Disney conducted extensive research on the public perception of sports betting – they found that the public’s view of the activity no longer carries the negative connotation that it used to, largely thanks to the regulation of legal sports betting throughout the nation.

“Therefore, to go after that demographic opportunity plus the not insignificant revenue implications, that is something that we’re keenly interested in and are pursuing aggressively,” Chapek said. “We have been looking to get into gambling in a bigger way and ESPN is the perfect platform for this.”

ESPN has already begun to integrate gambling content to a surprising degree in the last few years in an effort to bring in the younger demographic, and their expansion into the sports betting world would serve as a continuation of this strategy.

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