My oh my, how times have changed at the Walt Disney Company! When the entertainment monolith launched a cruise line in the early 90s, it made a big deal of no casinos being on board any ships, as gambling was not a business Disney wanted to be in. Fast forward to 2021, and Disney is fielding offers from sportsbooks to license the ESPN name.
Cara Lombardo and Benjamin Mullin of The Wall Street Journal report that ESPN leaders have met with Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings about a potential licensing deal. The network is reportedly seeking a multi-year deal worth $3 billion.
ESPN would allow a licensee to use the network’s name in branding and advertising. Renaming a sportsbook after ESPN could potentially be on the table as well.
It remains possible that no deal gets done. ESPN, rightfully, wants to price its name at a premium. Sportsbooks are seeing business boom as more states legalize sports gambling each year. That money is going towards original content. That may make spending money to partner with ESPN bad business.
A licensing deal would allow ESPN to profit off of the sports betting boom without making a serious commitment. The network has launched a variety of shows including The Daily Wager and ESPN Bet dedicated to the subject. It has struck deals to integrate odds and other gambling information into scoreboxes. The one thing it has not done is found a way to take actual bets, despite saying earlier this year that everything was “on the table” in terms of generating gambling money.
Disney Investing In Content To Combat ESPN Subscriber Decline
Disney revealed that they have seen a 10% drop in pay-TV subscribers with access to ESPN.
Disney has decided to ramp up spending while ESPN faces a tricky situation of losing subscribers for their traditional audience of cable subscribers, but an increase in streaming numbers.
Disney has said that it would spend $33 billion on content in fiscal 2022, which began on October 1st. The company’s annual reports shows that this number is up 32% from last fiscal year, where the company spent $25 billion.
Of the $33 billion, which spans all Disney networks and studios, with a target of 140 scripted and unscripted series, $10.3 billion is earmarked for sports programming, per the filing.
Disney revealed that they have seen a 10% drop in pay-TV subscribers with access to ESPN. This number fell to 76 million, from 84 million at the end of fiscal 2020.
These numbers show the steady decline coming from not only traditional TV but ESPN in particular. The tally is well below ESPN’s peak of just north of 100 million homes nearly a decade ago.
ESPN News and ESPNU, which each had 62 million pay-TV subscribers a year ago, dropped to a respective 59 million and 51 million in fiscal 2021.
All is not gloom for ESPN however, as they have been putting up impressive numbers for their streaming service ESPN+. ESPN+, which costs $6.99 per month, ended the fiscal year with 17 million subscribers, up 66% year-over-year.
Disney has denied that they would spin off ESPN but indicated that it may consider bundling ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu into a single service at a later date.
For the time being, they have added ESPN+ and Disney + to their Hulu Live TV package, a move set to affect Hulu customers in December with a $5 increase to $64.99 per month.
ACC Network Set To Debut On Comcast Xfinity
“No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.”
There is always a mad scramble to work out carriage deals before a company launches a new cable network. Before the ACC Network debuted in 2019, Disney and ESPN secured deals with AT&T, Charter, DirecTV, DISH, Google Fiber and Verizon Fios. It was missing Comcast. That company’s Xfinity cable system is the largest in the country.
Xfinity subscribers will get to see the ACC Network for the first time in the coming weeks thanks to a deal between Disney and Comcast. As part of an agreement to renew the carriage of ESPN networks, the Disney branded channels, Freeform, the FX networks, and the National Geographic channels, Comcast has agreed to pick up the conference network and pair it with the SEC Network, which was already a part of Xfinity packages.
“We are very pleased to have reached this comprehensive agreement with Disney to continue providing Xfinity customers access to their content across our industry-leading platforms,” Rebecca Heap, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products & Propositions for Comcast Cable, said in a press release.
ACC Network will now be available in nearly 20 million more homes as a result of the deal. No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.
“We’re very happy to extend our longstanding relationship with Comcast and continue to provide their Xfinity customers with Disney’s best-in-class programming,” Sean Breen, Executive Vice President of Platform Distribution at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, added. “In addition to our news, sports and general entertainment offerings, the launch of the ACC Network in the coming weeks, paired with the renewal of the SEC Network, will give Xfinity’s college sports fans long-awaited access to their favorite games.”
SEC Network Devotes 72 Hours To Georgia vs Bama
“On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon.”
Just like that, the college football regular season has come to a close, and the focus for FBS fans now shifts to the penultimate point of the overall season: conference championship weekend.
While all of the Power 5 conferences will be crowning champions, the eyes of the college football world will be on Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as Georgia meets Alabama in the SEC title game. SEC Network recognizes that and has dedicated the 72 hours prior to kickoff, and immediately after the game also, to programming focused on the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide colliding for a berth in the 2021 College Football Playoff.
On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon. As expected, all the SEC Network staples will be live and on-location in Atlanta.
It all begins on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 1:30 p.m. with the SEC championship press conference hosted by Dari Nowkhah. Viewers will hear from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Paul Finebaum will go on the air with The Paul Finebaum Show starting at 3 p.m.
Check out the full weekend schedule below:
Thursday, Dec. 2
- SEC Now: SEC Championship Coaches Press Conferences, 1:30 p.m.
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 3
- SEC This Morning, 8 a.m., on location at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC)
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Now: The Championship Coaches, 7 p.m., on location at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS)
- SEC Now, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
Saturday, Dec. 4
- Thinking Out of Pocket, noon, on location at the GWCC
- Marty & McGee, 1 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Nation, 2 p.m., on location at the GWCC and MBS
- SEC Football Final, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
In addition to the usual lineup of hosts for these shows, fans tuning in can expect special guest appearances as well from country music star Chris Young, to comedian Jeff Foxworthy and Tony Barnhart.
The 2021 SEC championship game will kick off at 4 p.m. on Saturday. You can watch the game on CBS.
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