DraftKings Boss Silent On Potential ESPN Partnership

October 12, 2022
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Speaking at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) on Tuesday, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins remained quiet on the topic of a reported major partnership with sports media giant ESPN.

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Speaking at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) on Tuesday (October 11), DraftKings CEO Jason Robins remained quiet on the topic of a reported major partnership with sports media giant ESPN.

Robins had barely taken his seat during a keynote panel appearance when moderator Contessa Brewer of CNBC asked about the prospective tie-up reported by Bloomberg last week that the sportsbook operator was nearing a new partnership.

The reports were sparse on details about what would be included in the deal, but The Action Network later reported that the deal would be a “massive, exclusive partnership.”

“We have a partnership with them already that is working well,” Robins said. “Nothing else to talk about at this point.”

The company’s existing partnership is a “co-exclusive” deal with ESPN that sees Caesars Entertainment serve as the Disney-owned brand’s exclusive odds provider and DraftKings serve as exclusive daily fantasy sports provider.

Disney and ESPN executives have maintained that they want to get further involved in the sports-betting space, with ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro calling sports betting a “must-have” for their audience in an interview with The Athletic earlier this year.

Other top executives speaking at G2E on Tuesday said that an ESPN partnership likely would not be part of their plans.

“We’ve taken a portfolio approach to how we’ve grown the business,” said FanDuel CEO Amy Howe, who appeared on the panel with Robins. “We have great relationships with NBC, CBS, we have some of the best talent in the world, our playbook has worked really well and we’re sticking to it.”

“We have a partner in Bally Sports, so less likely,” added Soo Kim, chairman of Bally’s Corporation. “We believe that gaming and media can come together in a more subtle and natural way than media, and then at a commercial break, gaming, gaming, gaming, gaming.”

The rumors have been a popular topic of discussion in Las Vegas since the annual gaming conference presented by the American Gaming Association (AGA) kicked off on Monday.

“Everyone in the room goes to check ESPN for sports,” said Matt Sodl, president of Innovation Capital. “Imagine having a button right next to that game where you click it and make a bet.”

“That is ultimately where this is going, Disney doesn’t want to be in the betting business but doing a joint venture with someone like a DraftKings, when that deal becomes publicly announced, that is going to be a home run.”

But others like Joey Levy, CEO of startup micro-betting platform Betr, argued in favor of moves that build brand loyalty compared to big marketing spends that builds awareness.

“This ESPN deal with DraftKings, I view that as brand awareness,” said Levy. “There’s 150m sports fans in this country, and I’d be willing to bet that every single one of them have heard of DraftKings by now.”

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