ESPN and fantasy and sports-betting company DraftKings are on the verge of signing an exclusive partnership, according to Action Network’s Darren Rovell.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 6, 2022
“We have a great, long-standing relationship with ESPN,” DraftKings told Rovell in a statement. “However, we speak to a variety of companies on a regular basis and don’t comment on the specifics of those conversations.”
ESPN did not comment on the reported talks.
It’s a logical next step for the Worldwide Leader, which has invested in sports gambling via its programming, advertising, and marketing deals, but has yet to fully intertwine itself in actual betting. While parent company Disney played a role in that hesitation, Disney also acquired a stake in DraftKings when it acquired Fox’s entertainment assets in 2019, which surely makes this a much easier pill to swallow.
That said, this isn’t the first time ESPN and DraftKings have been linked in this kind of deal. In 2015, reports said that Disney was ready to make a $250 million investment in the fantasy sports company, upping its valuation to nearly $1 billion. Disney ended up killing that deal, though DraftKings became the official fantasy sports provider for ESPN instead. However, that deal died in 2016 as DraftKings found itself dealing with legal and financial issues. That also led to DraftKings getting funding from a Fox-led group instead, though they wound up writing down that investment by 60 percent in 2016.
Last month, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said on CNBC that while ESPN would never take bets, they could give sports fans “the ability to have a frictionless sports betting potential with not having to have four screens in front of you.”
Meanwhile, ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro recently told Bloomberg that the company wanted to “eliminate friction” for bettors.
“We know that sports fans are craving not just more sports betting content, but they’re craving the ability to actually place bets in a seamless fashion from their online digital sports experiences,” Pitaro said.