ESPN is Making Plans to Launch Its Own Sportsbook
Strategic partnerships between US media properties and US-based sportsbooks are rather common in the industry. There is a natural synergy between the two parties as a built-in vehicle to promote the betting site.
Earlier this year, 888 Holdings as the parent company for a popular UK sportsbook joined forces with Authentic Brands. The two sides are working on a mobile betting app for a Sports Illustrated Sportsbook. The initial launch of that betting brand is set for Colorado sometime this year.
FOX Sports is expanding its FOX Bet mobile sports betting app in more markets across the US. Bally Corporation partnered with Sinclair Broadcasting to help promote Bally Bet through a regional sports network of stations.
The biggest deal brewing right now would involve the World Leader in Sports. Multiple sources have reported that ESPN is looking to partner with a major sports betting operator. This deal could be worth as much as $3 billion according to the Wall Street Journal.
Owned by the Walt Disney Company, ESPN has held preliminary talks with both Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings. This has yet to be confirmed or denied by each of those gaming companies.
Caesars Entertainment has recently gone all in with its effort to grow market share in the US sports betting industry. The company has committed $1 billion to its effort to expand Caesars Sportsbook as a mobile betting brand.
Part of this effort involves the rebranding of William Hill. Caesars acquired the highly recognized UK sportsbook earlier this year. The rebranding effort is underway in markets all across the country.
In other corporate moves for its sports betting division, Caesars entered into a long-term deal with the Louisiana Superdome for naming rights of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints home field. Caesars has also just become the title sponsor for college football’s Fiesta Bowl in Arizona.
DraftKings become a house-hold name for its daily fantasy sports (DFS) site. Since sports betting was legalized in the US on a state-by-state basis back in May of 2018, this Boston-based company has quickly grown to become the second-biggest US sportsbook in terms of market share.
Any deal with ESPN would involve licensing the brand name for the creation of a sportsbook. This could include retail ESPN sportsbooks tied to existing land-based casino locations.
The bigger portion of the deal would revolve around an ESPN mobile sports betting app. In most states offering legal online sports betting, wagers placed through mobile betting apps account for more than 90% of the total monthly handle.
Handle refers to total betting volume in dollars over a specific timeframe such as a week or month.
Caesars or DraftKings would be a natural fit for ESPN. Caesars currently provides sports betting odds and other content across the ESPN network. DraftKings is the official DFS partner of ESPN.
As part of Disney, ESPN has waded slowly into the legal US sports betting industry. The family-oriented conglomerate has been vocal in its opposition to the expansion of gambling in its home state of Florida. Changing attitudes at the highest corporate level could be fueling this current direction.
ESPN has already incorporated sports betting lines and odds into its studio programming. The network currently offers sports betting themed content. Launching its own sportsbook could be seen as a natural progression into the US industry.
US industry analysts point to the $4 billion in sports betting revenue that is expected to be generated by the end of this year. Major media properties such as ESPN can only ride it out on the sidelines for so long with that type of revenue potential on the table.
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