Bob Chapek stepped down as CEO of The Walt Disney Company and was replaced by former CEO Bob Iger. This may affect the gambling plans of the media giant.
Following the recent popularity of sports betting in the US, Disney has begun to focus more and more on this sector. Analysts predict how ESPN, the company’s dominant sports and streaming division, will enter the market. Will it be a joint venture or a separate platform.
Chapek outlined his view of Disney’s fourth-quarter results that ESPN would be the perfect platform for the entertainment conglomerate to gain a foothold in the gambling market.
He said: «We do believe that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company. And it’s all driven by the consumer. It’s driven by the consumer, particularly the younger consumer that will replenish the sports fans over time and their desire to have gambling as part of their sports experience.»
However, with Chapek’s resignation and Iger’s return as CEO, Disney’s plans to develop sports betting and/or gambling may be put on hold.
Under Iger’s leadership, Disney has taken a very clear position on gambling, including opposing gambling-friendly laws in Florida, home to Walt Disney World Resort.
During a 2019 earnings call, Iger said he didn’t expect Disney to go into the gambling business, adding that he was pretty skeptical about going into the gambling business.
He also noted that Disney would not be involved in gambling for the foreseeable future and noted that possible future development in the sector is under his direction.
His return to the company and Chapek’s departure followed a difficult fourth-quarter trading period for the company, with revenue rising just 1% to $162 million in 2021, while the streaming sector lost almost $1.5 billion.
By comparison, during Iger’s tenure, the company experienced a period of massive expansion, launching the now hugely popular Disney+ streaming service and acquiring 21st Century Fox, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.
American audiences consider ESPN America’s betting gem as it owns the rights to broadcast NFL, NBA, PGA Tour, Nascar and UEFA Champions League sports.
Given Iger’s clear propensity for growth and acquisitions, the challenges facing Disney’s streaming business, and the continued success of ESPN, the returning CEO’s resistance to the previous rate hike may ease somewhat.
ESPN is also already connected to sports betting through partnerships with Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings, integrating links to both sportsbook brands on its digital platform.
Iger commented on his return to Disney management: «I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO. Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe—most especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration.»
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