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ESPN President Says Sports Betting Deal Is Not Imminent

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Nov 30, 2022 · 1:53 PM PST

Ringside view of the ESPN logo
Jan 22, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; A view of the ESPN logo before UFC 270 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro says a sports betting deal for the media giant is not imminent
  • Pitaro reaffirmed ESPN will not create a sportsbook or set lines for its customers
  • ESPN had previously investigated a partnership with DraftKings

An ESPN move into sports betting is not imminent, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said today.

Speaking at the Sports Business Journal Media Innovators conference in New York, Pitaro confirmed that a potential deal or partnership with a sports betting operator is not going to happen for ESPN soon.

“We’ve been exploring. We’ve had conversations with all the usual suspects, looking at what could be the logical next step for us. We are not going to, and I’ve said this repeatedly, we’re not going to create a book. We’re not going to take people’s money. We’re not going to set lines, spreads, and odds, it’s not what we do. The idea of leaning in a bit more here, creating a more seamless experience, it’s something that’s definitely on the table,” Pitaro said at the conference.

ESPN Previously Investigated DraftKings Partnership

Pitaro’s comments were a stark contrast to rumors that surrounded ESPN in early October, when several outlets reported the sports media giant was close to licensing its brand to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Bloomberg reported in early October that ESPN and DraftKings was close to an agreement for the massive sports media company to license its brand to the sports betting operator. A deal makes sense, as ESPN and DraftKings already have an existing marketing partnership and ESPN has dipped its toes into sports gambling through content on its website and television shows.

But what would a potential deal cost? According to Eilers & Krejcik, ESPN is seeking close to $300 million a year for such a partnership, which may not even be a possibility for DraftKings to afford.  Recently, a JPMorgan analyst downgraded DraftKings stock, writing that DraftKings poses more of a risk in achieve online sports betting profitability than some of its other sports betting operating peers.

DraftKings also expects to lose as much as $575 million in 2023, company representatives announced during DraftKings’ Q3 earnings call earlier this month. The company reported $264 million in adjusted EBITDA losses for Q3 2022, compared with $341 million in Q3 2021.

New Disney CEO Needs to Weigh in

Pitaro also said he returning Disney CEO Bob Iger will have to sit down and dig into the sports betting journey with ESPN. Iger returned as Disney CEO last week after the surprising departure of Bob Chapek.

“Bob’s ultimately going to have to dig in with me. We’re going to have to sit down, I’m going to have to walk him through this. He doesn’t just look through the ESPN lens, he looks through the Walt Disney Company lens,” Pitaro said.

“I do not anticipate any deals imminent,” he concluded.

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