ESPN is making some further moves to emphasize their sports gambling content. Back on March 11, they launched the Monday-Friday gambling show Daily Wager, hosted by Doug Kezirian. Now, with football season around the corner, the network is adding a Sunday version of the show and also shifting the show to higher-distribution ESPN2. Here’s more from their release:
ESPN’s sports betting news and information program Daily Wager will be moving to a new, permanent home on ESPN2 on August 20 and will be expanding with a new Sunday morning edition to air during the upcoming football season.
…“Daily Wager has caught on with our viewers and now we look forward to serving even more sports fans with the move to ESPN2,” said Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN vice president, Programming and Acquisitions, who oversees ESPN’s sports betting programming. “And the addition of a new Sunday morning edition this fall will expand the audience even more during a very busy time of the year.”
The Sunday morning edition of Daily Wager, which debuts Sept. 8, will feature up-to-the-minute analytics, point spreads and discussion of how the day’s news will affect sports betting. The one-hour program will air at 9 a.m. on ESPNEWS for the first three weeks and then move to ESPN2 beginning Sept. 29.
The network also announced in that release that ESPNEWS will be getting a new gambling-focused look for everything other than live events, and that this format will also apply to Daily Wager episodes on ESPN2:
Also on August 20, ESPNEWS viewers will notice a change in the look of the channel as the screen is modified to include surrounding graphics related to sports betting news, lines and information 24 hours a day, with the exception of during live event telecasts. The same format will appear on ESPN2 during Daily Wager episodes.
It’s notable to see ESPN giving Daily Wager a bigger platform. And it’s a significantly bigger platform. The most recent Nielsen coverage estimates we saw, in April, had ESPN2 with 84,517,000 subscribers and ESPNEWS with 60,490,000 subscribers. So that’s a 24.5 million subscriber difference and an even larger difference in potential viewers, given that many subscribers have more than one person in their household.
And the Sunday show for Daily Wager is significant as well. There’s plenty of betting interest in the NFL, but we’ll see how that show does against other pre-game content, especially as it’s airing at a time before a lot of last-minute injury updates come in. It’s on from 9 to 10 a.m. Eastern, which is before ESPN’s own Sunday NFL Countdown (which starts at 10), Fox’s Fox NFL Kickoff (starting at 11) and CBS’ The NFL Today (starting at noon), but is going head-to-head with NFL Network’s NFL GameDay Morning.
It’s also interesting to see ESPN making ESPNEWS into more of a gambling-focused channel in look while simultaneously removing its most gambling-focused show. Of course, this makes some sense for them; that network’s had questions about its future for over five years, and it really lost its news-focused identity when the separate evening SportsCenter shows there were ended as part of the November 2017 layoffs. Making it a source for on-screen gambling information could help differentiate it.
And that might also bring in some audience for the radio simulcast-heavy lineup there some people may not really care about the on-air content, but could tune in anyways to see the gambling info here. (That’s presuming it’s sufficiently interesting and useful info, of course; there are plenty of other gambling information sites out there people may use instead.) But it certainly represents a shift for ESPNEWS, and it makes one wonder if there might be further gambling-focused shows heading for that channel.
All in all, this seems like ESPN is ready to dive deeper into the sports gambling waters. They tested those waters slightly with the launch of Daily Wager, and now they’re both boosting that show’s profile and changing ESPNEWS into a more gambling-centric channel. This still isn’t taking a full leap and making everything on ESPN’s networks about sports gambling; there are still no gambling-specific shows on the main ESPN network (although there are gambling-focused segments on Scott Van Pelt’s SportsCenter and on College GameDay, amongst other programs), and one ESPN2 show daily plus some graphics on ESPNEWS isn’t an all-encompassing commitment. But this is a further move into gambling content from where ESPN was, and it will be interesting to see how it goes.