Despite their family-friendly image, Disney says they’re looking at incorporating gambling into their ESPN brand. CEO Bob Shapek says a broader public acceptance of gambling makes it a no-brainer. He believes consumers differentiate between the sports property and the family entertainment arm of the company.

Clearly, there is money to be made in the growing gambling industry. As more and more states legalize and regulate the practice, some media companies have already partnered up to form online betting sites. Fox and Barstool Sports are both heavily staked in legalized sports betting. Chapek described the changing consumer tastes in the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call on November 10 as reported by gaming industry website

“We have done substantial research in terms of the impact not only to the ESPN brand, but the Disney brand, in terms of consumers’ changing perceptions of the acceptability of gambling. And what we’re finding is that there’s a very significant isolation.”

While the company used to believe an association with gambling would hurt the Disney brand, times have changed. Chapek believes Disney needs to get into gambling in a serious way. The company is looking at licensing the ESPN brand for a betting app. They’re asking for a $3 billion fee.

Disney acquired ESPN in 1996. At that time, the landscape of sports television broadcasting was dramatically different. Public opinion on sports wagering was far more conservative, as well. Now, the media giant is ready to dive in head-first.

ESPN is part of a portfolio that boasts several huge international properties for Disney. ABC, Lifetime, History, A&E, and FX exist under the watchful eye of the mouse. So do Marvel Studios and LucasFilm. Internet sports betting could be the next branch in the Disney corporate tree.

What do you think of Disney getting into the gambling business? Let us know in the comments!

Michael Perry

Michael Perry is a news contributor for Ringside News and Thirsty for News. Michael has an M.A. in Communication Technology from Point Park University in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

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