Will CEO Change Stop Disney Launching Sportsbook?

The Walt Disney Company has a new CEO and that could affect their plans to enter the sports betting market. Former boss Bob Inger is now in charge after Bob Chapek decided to stand down as CEO.

Disney has been planning on getting involved in the gambling sector for a while now. Analysts had forecast that their ESPN sports broadcasting and streaming unit would be ideal for them to launch into the sports betting industry. That has been booming in the USA of late with over 30 states having now made betting legal, especially online.

The company recently published their fourth quarter earnings result. When doing so, Chapek said that ESPN was the “perfect” platform for Disney to use. His view was that “sports betting is a very significant opportunity” and ESPN would be the ‘perfect’ platform for the entertainment conglomerate to secure a foothold in wagering. ESPN has already got links with the betting industry. They have partnerships with both Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings.

“We do believe that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company. And it’s all driven by the consumer,” he said. With gambling being popular with the younger consumer, that makes becoming part of it even more attractive to Disney.

With Chapek now being replaced by Inger, there have been doubts cast over Disney moving into the gambling sector. When he was previously in charge of the company, Disney made it clear that they were not supporters of gambling. There were plans to make gambling legal in Florida (where the Walt Disney World resort can be found) and Disney campaigned against the legalisation.

While Chapek has been speaking in favour of Disney entering the gambling sector, that’s not what Inger said three years ago. He spoke on the subject during an earnings call and said: “he did ot foresee Disney ‘getting involved in the business of gambling.”

His statement did mention “in the near future,” so with three years having passed, could his views have changed? The fact that ESPN is doing well and streaming operations recording losses of nearly $1.5bn in Q4, his views might well be different now.

It’s not been an easy time for Disney this year. Their revenue growth for Q4 was just 1% with a figure of $162 million. That’s compared to the expansion seen in Inger’s previous tenure. That period saw the company launching Disney+ and making significant acquisitions. That list included Marvel, 21st Century Fox, Pixar and Lucasfilm.