ESPN Takes on Established Betting Giants with its New Betting App

Just in time for the busy Thanksgiving sporting rush, ESPN has released ESPN BET on November 14. The international cable sports channel is entering the sports betting market with an app produced with the help of PENN Entertainment. ESPN BET is hoping the app will allow them to disrupt the stranglehold that betting giants DraftKings and FanDuel have on the US sports betting app market. ESPN has been known as the world’s largest sports network for many years and with thousands of hours of sports being broadcast weekly, it deserves that recognition. 


Not much is known about ESPN BET ahead of its release, and at the time of this writing, the exact nature of the app’s UI and features are still shrouded in mystery. It is safe to assume that with their vast wealth of knowledge across the sports industry, ESPN will be providing insightful and up-to-date tips, picks and odds across just about every sport imaginable. We do know that the online sportsbook will be replacing the not-particularly-successful Barstool Sportsbook which is PENN Entertainment’s previous foray into sports betting apps. We also know that ESPN’s plan is that its fans and users will not have to leave their ecosystem in order to place bets, as they currently would have to do.


ESPN hopes to disrupt the established betting landscape

ESPN is a giant, it’s true. They are backed by Disney and have vast wealth and innumerable well-liked personalities at their disposal. PENN Entertainment has a significant amount of experience in operating an online sportsbook, even if it isn’t glowingly successful. But as strong as the combined forces of these two might be, they have a pair of well-established giants to contend with. These giants, FanDuel and DraftKings together hold approximately two-thirds of the entire US sports betting market. They have been in the best position in the market and have had the time to fine-tune and expertly tinker with their technologies and processes. This means that ESPN has their work cut out for them with their goal of disrupting the US sports betting landscape.

Is this a natural progression for the world’s largest sports network?

For many, it is likely no surprise that ESPN is branching into sports betting. As betting becomes more accepted across the world and many states in the US move to legalize, regulate and subsequently profit from the sports betting industry, it appears that betting will become an inescapable part of sports culture. As previously mentioned, part of the logic behind the move is undoubtedly that ESPN wants to keep users within its ecosystem, and currently, that ecosystem doesn’t offer sports betting opportunities. With ESPN BET, users will be able to view score lines, expert reviews of matches and place bets, all in the same place. In theory, this will increase customer retention.

It has been rumored that ESPN has been on the verge of entering into the sports-betting industry for some years. Talks with Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings, both of whom it had promotional agreements with, and both of whom are huge players in the sports betting and gambling markets, have not enter into an app or sportsbook venture. The fact that Disney owns ESPN might have something to do with the slow entrance into the sports betting market, as gambling is not often seen as being family-friendly. What might have changed behind the scenes is impossible to say; perhaps the growing legalization of sports betting is to thank for the change of heart.

PENN Entertainment backs Disney-owned ESPN betting app

As mentioned earlier, PENN Entertainment is a partner in ESPN’s sports betting venture. PENN has backed ESPN with a sum to the tune of $150 million a year in order to secure a 10-year licencing deal with the broadcasting giant. PENN operates 40+ brick-and-mortar casinos and already has a sports betting app, Barstool, which they are shelving in favor of ESPN BET. As well as bankrolling the project, PENN is thought to be bringing

technology and expertise to the table in order to help make the joint venture a success.

Not the only recent newcomer to the sports-betting app market

As recently as August of this year, online sportswear retailer Fanatics also launched an online sportsbook. Looking at their current success, things look bleak for newcomers to the market, with the Fanatics app failing to break 3.5% of the sports betting market share in any state in which it operates. ESPN BET has a huge fanbase on which to call and a platform on which to push its advertising, but will it be enough to meaningfully contend with the entrenched sportsbooks that hold the market currently? 

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