walt disney (DIS) – Get The Walt Disney Company Report The company no longer operates on the family-friendly standards advocated by founder Walt Disney. That’s at least in part because societal standards have changed. What was once shameful has become commonplace, and what was once considered outrageous is now fairly commonplace.
In an age where people set themselves on fire or jump off buildings for internet stunts, being able to order a beer at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom isn’t all that outrageous. Of course, that wasn’t the case when the park opened in 1971.
Now, the beverage kiosk at Disney World’s sister property, Epcot, no longer makes the park unsuitable for families. The same goes for adding R-rated content along with parental controls to the Disney+ streaming service. Yes, kids probably shouldn’t be watching “Jessica Jones” or any of the Marvel shows that originated on Netflix, but they can exist on the same service without letting the “Simpsons” tycoon die.
Times have changed, and even Disney has changed (albeit slowly, since you still can’t get a to-go beer or hard liquor in the Magic Kingdom). Now, Disney plans to go a step further and embrace something it has never embraced before.
Disney has big (once banned) plans for ESPN
Since the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that barred states from legalizing sports betting, Disney ESPN has slowly begun to embrace the topic.The company’s first big move is a partnership with Caesars (CZR) – Get Caesars Entertainment Inc Report and DraftKings (DKNG) – Get DraftKings Inc Class A Report.
“Our new agreement with Caesars and DraftKings collectively represents the next major milestone for ESPN to diversify our exposure and deepen our A commitment to the sports betting space.”
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“We started to augment the experience with content, then leveraged William Hill’s sportsbook data and the new state-of-the-art studio facility in Las Vegas to make odds through the deal with Caesars, and now with DraftKings onboard, we will bring to bring the sports media leader together with two of the top brands and best products in the space.”
That’s Disney taking something that wasn’t even publicly talked about on ESPN or ABC Sports TV and embraced it. Following the deal, Disney created specific gambling-related content on ESPN and ESPN+ as part of a major philosophical shift at the company.
“Sports betting is fast becoming local to the overall experience of sports fans,” ESPN senior vice president Mark Walker said in the statement.
“For us, this means more opportunities to innovate and provide fans with the best and most seamless experience that will ultimately expand ESPN’s brand and audience, and increase engagement. As it grows and development, and we will continue to aggressively pursue this industry.”
Disney’s CEO embraces gambling
Bob Chapek doesn’t run the same company that Walt Disney started. Disney still serves families — its core audience — but families include drinking and gambling moms and dads. The CEO seemed to understand this and commented on the company’s gambling future on the fourth-quarter earnings call.
“While multi-platform TV and streaming will continue to underpin sports coverage in the near term, we believe the opportunity for The Walt Disney Company extends well beyond these channels. It extends to sports betting, gaming and virtual worlds,” he said.
That alone suggests Disney has turned around, but Chapek continued.
“In fact, what excites us is the opportunity to build a sports machine similar to our franchise’s flywheel, allowing viewers to experience, connect and actively participate in their favorite sporting events, stories, teams and players,” he said.