Nov 1, 2022 - Economy

ESPN boss addresses possible DraftKings deal

ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro at the Axios BFD event. Courtesy: Beatrice Moritz

ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro is looking to capitalize more on the network's brand equity through betting partnerships beyond promotions, possibly licensing ESPN's brand equity to a sports book.

Why it matters: A brand licensing deal could meaningfully expand ESPN's foray into betting without going so far as facilitating actual bets.

  • A recent Bloomberg report suggests a large-scale deal between ESPN and DraftKings, an existing promotions partner, is imminent.

What he's saying: "We know that our brand has a ton of credibility, a ton of trust. We are contemplating whether we should leverage our brand in that capacity," Pitaro said last week at our annual "BFD" deals conference in New York.

  • "When I talk about our brand, I'm really talking about the trust and the credibility that that would convey to a sports fan. Or a fan that's looking to place a bet," Pitaro said.
  • "We're not interested in being the place where people actually create their bets," he said, noting it doesn't feel appropriate for ESPN.

Asked explicitly about licensing the ESPN brand to a company like DraftKings Pitaro said, "Everything's been on the table. We've been contemplating a variety of scenarios in terms of that next step for us in that space," including more link integrations and promotion partnerships.

The big picture: It's a momentous time for dealmaking at ESPN. The company just secured, alongside Fox, a rights extension for the Big 12 conference through 2028 for a reported $2.28 billion.

  • Looking ahead, ESPN and Amazon Prime remain the front runners to pick up Pac-12 rights, Sports Business Journal's John Ourand reports.
  • Pitaro said coming out of the pandemic, it's "probably our most impactful string (of rights deals) in our 43-year history."

Yes, but: Pitaro acknowledged that the company can't win everything.

  • In August, ESPN lost its rights to the Big 10 conference after 40 years. "They came to us and they were offering fewer games at a higher price," Pitaro said.
  • Still, he noted, when the company's new SEC football rights deal begins in 2024, "we will have 64% of the college football market, which is essentially where we are today."
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