Even though networks are limited to six sportsbook ads per NFL game, it feels like we see nothing but gambling ads during games. It’s the craze this season and CBS, Fox, and NBC have made sure to maximize their gambling ad space the first three weeks of the season.
ABC/ESPN have gone the other way and have hardly showcased sportsbook ads during games. After three weeks, there have only been two gambling ads during Monday Night Football, a couple of DraftKings ads that aired on Week 1. According to Sportico’s Anthony Crupi, it’s not such a big deal that Disney is largely sitting out on the sports gambling frenzy.
Crupi puts out a few possible reasons why ESPN isn’t having ads during games. For one thing, it’s been known for the past month that ESPN is interested in licensing their brand to a sports betting company. While the other three networks are getting millions for ads, ESPN is looking for billions on a licensing deal. With that difference in money, ESPN can afford to wait it out and avoid any sort of conflict of interest by advertising a potential competitor. This hasn’t stopped conflicts of interests on ESPN’s side. For example, Adam Schefter just recently got into business with Patriots owner Robert Kraft while Jessica Mendoza used to be a special advisor for the Mets. But since we’re talking about a potential multi-billion dollar deal, ESPN probably isn’t looking for any possible reason to screw it up.
Another reason could be that there was simply no room to fit sportsbook ads right now. The NFL only just recently allowed sportsbook ads during games and it’s possible that ESPN had already sold the majority of their ad spots at the start of the season that they couldn’t fit anyone else in if they wanted to. That would be a good problem for ESPN to have. As Crupi notes, ad time is a sellers market so as long as ESPN can sell all their spots each week, they’re not going to lose that much money.
In addition, ESPN can wait it out because sports gambling ads aren’t going away anytime soon. There may have been less money spent on gambling ads now than in Week 1 where gambling companies spent over $24 million that week, but the ads are still there. As long as that’s the case, the door is always open for ESPN and sportsbooks to team up.