Bob Iger has only been back as Disney’s CEO for a few months, but we’ve already seen some massive changes made.
Free parking is back at Disney World’s hotels, a Park Pass change has been announced, a massive restructuring of the Company has been revealed to fix a Bob Chapek “mistake,” and Iger has hinted at some other changes that could mark a “stark reversal in strategy” at the Company. Now, he’s discussed another matter where he and Chapek might not have necessarily seen eye to eye.
During a question-and-answer session at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference that Iger participated in, Iger was asked a direct question about sports betting. The interviewer asked about Iger’s thoughts on sports betting given “the power of the brand and the growth of betting in the US.”
For those who may not have been familiar with it, getting more involved in sports betting is something Chapek championed during his time as CEO. In fact, it’s something he pursued rather aggressively.
During a 2021 earnings call, Chapek said that Disney was “moving toward a greater presence in online sports betting.” At that time, he indicated that leadership within the company believed “that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company.”
Chapek reiterated this interest on several occasions. In one conference, he said that younger ESPN viewers (specifically those who are 35 years old and younger) want “a robust, lean-forward sports experience” rather than “their grandfather’s lean-back experience.”
But Iger hadn’t always been on board. Back in 2018, when he was CEO, Iger said, “I do think that there’s plenty of room, and ESPN has done some of this already and they may do more to provide information in coverage of sports…But getting into the business of gambling, I rather doubt it.”
Now, it seems things have shifted in terms of Iger’s perspective on gambling, but he doesn’t seem to be as intensely focused on it or as enthusiastic about it as Chapek once was. During the 2023 Morgan Stanley conference, Iger noted that “There are opportunities not for us to go into the betting business, but we’ve talked about this and it’s something that my predecessor was very interested in.”
He discussed how incorporating elements of sports betting is something they’re already doing and Fox is doing too. And he detailed how it’s “important for consumers, particularly young consumers.”
Iger also noted that he has 2 sons — ages 24 and 20 — and for them, it’s not just about fantasy sports, but “they’re interested in it.” Iger fully admitted, however, that he’d “prefer to wait as long as possible.” But he shared that when he thinks about his sons, he feels it’s “inevitable that they’ll be a…basically, a seamlessness between sports programming and sports betting.”
So, while Chapek seemed to emphasize the value of betting and how Disney was “keenly interested in and…pursuing aggressively” an involvement in sports gambling, Iger seems to be taking a slightly different approach. To Iger, it seems an involvement in sports betting is “inevitable” due to the desires of their younger viewers. But he said he’d prefer to wait as long as possible before getting too involved. In short, under Iger, Disney might not be hopping as deep into the sports betting game as quickly as Chapek might have wanted.
It marks another key difference between these two leaders and their focus within the Company. Iger has fully acknowledged that his goal is to improve the streaming situation at Disney. He’s also working on finding the “right” successor and ensuring the Company is in an optimistic position when he leaves. It seems sports betting might just not be high on that list of things to do for now.
What other big changes could Iger make during his 2-year return to Disney? We’ll have to wait and find out. For more Iger stories click here to get a look at Iger’s $5.5 BILLION cost cuts at Disney, or click here to see how Disney employees have fought back against a new Iger rule.
See how a critical Disney WAR ended before it even began
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Would you want to see ESPN get further into sports betting? Tell us in the comments.
It’s a difference in values and respect for the company. Chapek did a great deal of damage. Fortunately the nightmare ended after a couple of years. We should be grateful.
David Vota says
Not selling Annual Passes?? They are both USELESS.
David Vota says
Now Iger quits. Useless.