Disney’s Taking A Sporting Chance

Disney’s Taking A Sporting Chance
Paul Allison, CFA

7 months ago2 mins

Mentioned in story

What’s going on here?

Disney’s giant sports network ESPN is taking a gamble on betting, according to news out on Wednesday.

What does this mean?

With streaming firms chomping away at ESPN’s once-hefty subscriber pie, Disney has been hunting for fresh revenue sources. And its latest play is a far cry from princesses and fairytale castles: it’s taking a punt on sports gambling instead. The firm’s cool $2 billion handshake with Penn Entertainment, the casino and online gambling giant, promises to inject some much-needed cash into ESPN. And in return, Penn gets the keys to the kingdom, with an exclusive license for ESPN Bet. That could be a smart marriage, too: after all, sports betting is now legal in 34 states, and sports fans might find the betting-and-watching experience a seriously tempting proposal – but a very responsible one too, of course.

Penn market share

Why should I care?

Zooming in: Everyone’s dollars are green.

Disney’s foray into sports betting with Penn is a bit of an about-face. After all, the firm once deemed it too risqué to house high-stakes gambling and the whimsical world of Cinderella under one roof. So Disney tiptoed around the issue for a while, making deals with various gambling outfits rather than nailing its colors to the mast. But as challenges mount for the House of Mouse, it seems Disney’s finally ready to roll the dice in earnest.

The bigger picture: Magic or mirage.

Disney’s once-sparkling future seems a bit clouded lately. While its streaming service has been guzzling cash without meeting expectations, the traditional cable side is shedding subscribers too. True Disney believers are still holding out hope, trusting in the company’s storied content creation and robust theme park business. But skeptics are questioning if Disney can ever recapture its golden era. And right now, it’s hard to say whether this will wind up a story with a fairytale ending, or a riches-to-rags one instead.

Disney stock
Source: Google Finance
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