Screen grab: ESPN

We are now just days away from the launch of ESPN Bet. It’s a landmark day for the world’s biggest and most prominent sports media company as they go all-in on sports betting and a day that would have been inconceivable only a decade ago. But with ESPN struggling for revenue sources and the tidal wave of sports betting platforms after its legalization in 2018, perhaps it was only a matter of time.

ESPN will license their brand to Penn Entertainment in a billion dollar deal to bring ESPN Bet to the masses in the hopes that it can compete with companies like DraftKings and FanDuel who already have a huge head start in marketshare.

At the recent ESPN Edge event, Penn CEO Jay Snowden was honest in sharing that diving into sports betting was something ESPN had to do to keep fans on its platforms. If fans are leaving ESPN’s websites and apps to place a bet, it doesn’t make sense for their business. Why should ESPN lose fans and consumers that they could capture with a sports betting operation of their own?

Via EGR:

Addressing those early conversations, Snowden explained: “It was crystal clear to me in that conversation that the ESPN sports fan who goes to ESPN products platforms every day to check on scores and storylines and box scores look at the lines of these games.

“But when they’re ready to place a bet, they have to leave ESPN’s ecosystem and go somewhere else to place their bet. This isn’t something that ESPN wants to do. This is something ESPN has to do, because sports fans are demanding it,” he added.

Similarly for Penn, the ESPN partnership represents a huge opportunity to capture sports fans who might not be bettors just yet, nevermind all the states where sports betting isn’t yet legalized. Penn’s previous partnership with Barstool may have provided some advantages, but partnering with the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports brings their product to a whole new level of outreach and visibility.

“One of the things we’ve talked about a lot is we’re seeking to reach sports fans, not just sports bettors,” Snowden remarked.

“This is not a business that’s targeting sports bettors, it’s targeting sports fans, and with the ESPN brand leading into our ecosystem and designing a special look and feel, this is going to be incredibly compelling to the marketplace.”

He continued: “What’s really different for us is this deep integration behind the number one sports media brand in the world, those sports fans who like to bet and want to bet and the trust factor, and to be able to do that seamlessly is something that we take very seriously.

In listening to Snowden, Penn clearly sees the launch of ESPN Bet and the partnership with Bristol as a win-win opportunity. We will quickly find out how successful that partnership is when it launches on November 14th.