Walt Disney – the person who bears his name, not the company that bears his name – has a very useful idea of family entertainment. The cartoons offered moderate entertainment for all ages, while the theme parks combined low-key excitement, themed versions of classic theme park rides, a little education, and some dark, big-ticket games that were deeply themed, but far from as enthused as possible.
Disneyland, and later Disney World, were to be places where everyone could have fun and no one could have an adult drink. If you want to get a little wobbly, you can spin a little harder at the Mad Tea Party, ride the carousel of tea cups, or maybe take a trek up Space Mountain, but everything should still be appropriate for all ages.
That philosophy remained suspended for decades after Walt Disney’s death (dis) The company remained pretty rated G. That was loosened up a bit in 1982 when Epcot opened. It was hard to ignore that the World Showcase was largely built around food and drink with alcohol being a large part of that.
The purchase of Pixar and Marvel moved the company to PG-13 on the entertainment side, and now, with parental controls in place, R-rated movies have a place on Disney+. And while the addition of “Deadpool” to a live streaming service and serving adults drinks at its theme parks isn’t exactly “Disney Goes Wild,” it shows a growing company in a very different place.
However, CEO Bob Chuck made it clear that there’s one line Disney doesn’t expect to cross.
ESPN embraces sports betting (but only to a certain extent)
For a long time, neither ESPN nor any other major sports outlet recognized the existence of sports betting. That’s because it was only legal in Nevada, and while it wasn’t a big secret that sports betting was a multibillion dollar industry, it wasn’t really talked about on TV.
That has of course changed and ESPN has embraced sports betting content. It is now common for broadcasters to talk about betting lines and mainstream shows including ‘SportsCenter’ which regularly feature betting features.
Chuckle acknowledged that Disney must continue to evolve and that means adopting an actual betting platform, but he believes there are limits.
“Putting a link, for example, which is probably the most likely app — a link, not as an app, but an app, a link to a sports betting site, branded by ESPN, will have no effect on the brand,” the CEO said at the Goldman conference. Sachs Communacopia + Technology, BlogMickey reported:
Disney wants to eat it too
Chapek’s comments show the strange situation Walt Disney finds himself in as the company has to walk a line that no other company has to follow. As Chapek explains (albeit not directly), Disney can facilitate sports betting by linking to DraftKings (DKNG) Caesars Entertainment (CZR) or another similar service, but which cannot actually be provided by itself.
This sounds like a differentiating factor that only Chapek understands, but it’s also likely to be a concern for Disney’s board of directors. Therefore, ESPN will at some point – probably sometime soon – cut a deal to tie up with a sports betting provider that will allow fans to bet.
In theory, this is just Disney taking money to put it on the ESPN platforms, not Disney making money from betting. The company wouldn’t be creating a sportsbook – something Walt Disney was sure to hate – it would be Disney making it easy for viewers/readers to place bets based on ESPN content. It looks like Walt might not like it either, but Chapek showed that while there’s still a line Disney won’t cross, it’s more of a moving line.