Disney betting ambitions may be halted as Iger returns to CEO role

Bob Chapek has stepped down as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, replaced by former chief Bob Iger – a development which could have implications for the media giant’s gambling plans. 

Observing US sports betting’s post-PASPA take-off,  Disney has been increasingly eyeing up the sector, as analysts predict how its dominant ESPN sports broadcasting and streaming unit will enter the market – via acquisition, joint-venture or as a standalone platform. 

Speaking off the back of Disney’s fourth quarter earnings results, Chapek outlined his view that ESPN would be the ‘perfect’ platform for the entertainment conglomerate to secure a foothold in wagering.

“We do believe that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company. And it’s all driven by the consumer,” he explained.

“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 departure and the resumption of Iger to CEO duties, any sportsbook and/or gambling plans in development at Disney could be at risk of being shelved.

Under Iger’s tenure, Disney maintained a very clear anti-gambling stance such as opposing legislation approving gambling in Florida, the home state of its Walt Disney World resort. 

During an earnings call in 2019, Igner stated that he did ot foresee Disney ‘getting involved in the business of gambling’, adding: “Getting into the business of gambling, I rather doubt it.”

In this statement, he did however note that Disney would not be pursuing entry into gambling ‘in the near term’, implying that a possible future probing of the sector under his leadership despite his then opposition.

His return to the company and the departure of Chapek follows a period of difficult trading for the company during Q4, recording revenue growth of just 1% to $160m in 2021 to $162m, whilst its streaming division lost nearly $1.5bn. 

In comparison, during Iger’s tenure the company went through a huge period of expansion, launching the now hugely popular Disney+ streaming service and acquiring 21st Century Fox, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm

US observers view ESPN as a crown jewel for stateside wagering, as the company holds marquee broadcast rights for the pro-sports of NFL, NBA, PGA Tour, Nascar and the UEFA Champions League.   

Given Iger’s clear predilection for growth and takeovers, as well as the struggles faced by Disney’s streaming operations but also the continued success of ESPN, the returning CEO’s previous opposition to betting expansion could be somewhat dampened.

ESPN also already maintains sports betting connections via partnership with Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings which integrated links to both firm’s sportsbook brands across the outlet’s digital platforms.

“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Iger commented on his return to Disney leadership

“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. 

“I am deeply honoured to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivalled, bold storytelling.”

SBC News Disney betting ambitions may be halted as Iger returns to CEO role

Check Also

SBC Leaders Issue 29

SBC Leaders magazine: Sky Betting & Gaming still thinking big

Sky Betting & Gaming may be sitting at the very top of the UK gambling …

SBC News A look to 2024 with SBC Hall of Famer, Joe Asher

A look to 2024 with SBC Hall of Famer, Joe Asher

As the sports betting sector kicks into gear for the New Year, IGT’s Joe Asher …

SBC News Matthew Ball: Gambling on the verge of a Web3 odyssey

Matthew Ball: Gambling on the verge of a Web3 odyssey

Ahead of his keynote address at the SBC Summit Barcelona (19 – 21 September 2023) …