The US is about to get another powerhouse sports betting brand. This is because the ESPN Bet app is being readied and it promises to give US sports fans a brand new way to bet on sport. But will the ESPN Bet app live up to the hype or will it fall to the wayside like many other media-powered online sportsbooks of recent times?
The ESPN Bet app is expected to go live by Thanksgiving 2023. It’s an app that has been produced specifically for the US by Penn Entertainment and it comes after the company managed to get Disney to agree to the loan of the ESPN brand name.
This means that Penn Entertainment will have to pay $150 million in yearly payments for the next decade. Doing so will give Penn Entertainment full access to the ESPN brand and all of the marketing firepower that it offers. The company is expected to spend a further $150 million each year to market the new venue.
Penn Entertainment has been hard at work behind the scenes in the creation of the mechanics of the ESPN Bet app. This will see the brand using the technologies of Score Media to power the sports betting platform.
Penn Entertainment spent a lot of money on the acquisition of Score Media, and such costs have meant that the ESPN Bet app is unlikely to become profitable within the first year of operation. At the moment, the hopes are that the ESPN Bet app could claim a 15% share of the sports betting market.
No company has spent more on sports betting partnerships than Penn Entertainment, and the latest move is its biggest spend yet. ESPN has been the go-to for sports betting fans in the US, and it is the largest sports media brand in the nation.
With an active user base of 25 million subscribers, as well as over 100 million monthly unique visitors, it gives ESPN Bet the perfect base for gaining new customers. What’s important is the fact that Penn Entertainment will have exclusive access – shouldering the likes of DraftKings and Caesars Sportsbook out of the way. Plus ESPN has over 20 million fantasy sports customers, ahead of the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel.
It poses the fascinating question of how much of ESPN’s assets, Disney will allow Penn Entertainment to have. There will be hopes that the ESPN Bet app could gain ambassadors like the famous sports presents such as Pat McAfee and Scott Van Pelt, and it’s not too much of a stretch to see how the betting app and TV network could become fully integrated.
While Disney will be cautious to let any of its assets become too directly involved with gambling, the fact that it has been willing to lend Penn Entertainment the ESPN brand name is a significant move.
Of course, this isn’t the only time that a major media brand has attempted to enter the sports betting realm. Hopes are that ESPN Bet will do better than the Fox Bet app that was the subject of plenty of fanfare in 2019 after the deal between The Star Group and Fox Sports. This project struggled for market share and was quietly wound down earlier this summer.
Similarly, the SI Sportsbook from Sports Illustrated hasn’t really caught the public’s imagination, while the likes of Maxim and Funo have also failed to impress.
Penn Entertainment will also be keen to learn from its mistakes with Barstool Sports. This saw Penn purchasing Barstool in 2020 and tried to make the media brand fit into the sports betting domain. The Barstool Sportsbook simply couldn’t get a double-digit share of the market in any of the states that it operated in and it will shortly be joining the scrapheap of failing sports betting brands.
If any new brand is likely to capture the attention of sports betting fans, it has to be ESPN. It’s the largest sports media brand in the US, and it already has a huge audience. While any new entrant into the US sports betting scene will have to work hard to get a toehold, the market is constantly shifting, and ESPN Bet could have what it takes to succeed where others have failed.
Much will depend on whether Penn Entertainment can learn from the mistakes it made with the Barstool Sportsbook. There have certainly been plenty of failed attempts of merging big media brands with sports betting. But with other hot new sportsbooks such as Fanatics set to join the fray, it’s only going to get more competitive.
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