ESPN‘s headfirst dive into the business of sports betting was inevitable, according to Jay Snowden, CEO of Penn Entertainment, which will operate ESPN Bet.
Snowden spoke Thursday at the ESPN Edge Conference in New York about his company’s recent partnership with ESPN, which is set to debut the Penn-powered ESPN Bet sports betting app in 17 states next week. Penn is paying nearly $3 billion over the next 10 years to use the ESPN name for its online sportsbook after moving on from Barstool Sportsbook this summer.
“This isn’t something that ESPN wants to do, this is something that ESPN has to do,” Snowden said, alluding to the speculation that has surrounded the network since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to legalize sports betting.
ESPN, Penn deal took less than a year
Initial conversations between the partners happened just months before Penn’s surprise announcement that it would be shedding the Barstool name in favor of ESPN, Snowden said.
The biggest driver for ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro was keeping bettors within the same ecosystem they use to follow sports, Snowden said of initial conversations with the company.
“What’s really different for us is this deep integration behind the number one sports media brand in the world and those sports fans who like to bet and want to bet, and the trust factor to do this seamlessly is something we take very seriously,” Snowden said.
ESPN Bet integration to grow
As ESPN launches its betting app, it sheds odds providers DraftKings and Caesars, which its on-air talent regularly referenced during betting segments. In their place, ESPN Bet odds will power betting-related content across the company’s television networks, online content and eventually more places.
ESPN anchors Scott Van Pelt and Elle Duncan will star in commercials for the app next week, the partnered companies announced Thursday. Those commercials mirror the same style as ESPN’s This is SportsCenter series, which is almost 30 years old.
In the “coming weeks and months,” odds will be integrated into the ESPN’s traditional fantasy sports apps, Snowden said, adding that personalized player prop bet notifications may be sent to users based on their fantasy football roster.
Media integration at the core
Over the last year, Penn has been busy flipping over to in-house technology obtained when it purchased theScore for $2 billion in 2021. When ESPN Bet launches next week, that tech will power the app in every US jurisdiction, Snowden said.
In Ontario, roughly 73% of bets on Penn’s app originated from theScore media app, Snowden said. For all intents and purposes, that app will retain the same functions as ESPN Bet except for the name, which will remain theScore Bet in Canada.
Snowden maintained that best-in-class technology was the most important factor for ESPN in choosing a better partner.
“We’re in this space to win. And when I say, we, that’s Penn and that’s ESPN,” Snowden said. “Jimmy said it a bunch, that we don’t launch ESPN branded products with partners. When we do anything with ESPN, we do it to be best in class.”