Wednesday November 29, 2023

ESPN Bet’s ‘Blueprint’ For Success Has An Unexpected Origin Story

  • PENN Entertainment looks to replicate success seen with Canada's theScore.
  • ESPN Bet debuting in hyper-competitive U.S. betting market.
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PENN Entertainment and ESPN are looking for meaningful share for ESPN Bet in the hyper-competitive U.S. sports betting market, one dominated by the FanDuel-DraftKings duopoly.

They could do worse than look north, where PENN Entertainment’s Canadian operation is actually making inroads.

As ESPN Bet makes its highly anticipated debut on Tuesday, PENN Entertainment executives said they’re looking to replicate the strategy they’ve deployed with Score Media in Ontario.

Using content from sports media outlet theScore — which the company acquired in 2021 in a $2 billion deal — PENN Entertainment set company records for both gross and net gaming revenue with theScore sports betting operations in October, according to its latest earnings report. The company reportedly holds a No. 2 market share position in Ontario. 

Crucially, 73% of theScore’s total betting handle originates from theScore’s media app, something PENN Entertainment calls a “blueprint” for ESPN Bet.

“We don’t see any of the competitors in Ontario, or in the U.S., that have really focused on this deep integration between sports media and sports betting,” said Jay Snowden, PENN Entertainment CEO. “I think we’ve got it to a point in Ontario where it’s pretty frictionless. You don’t know when you’re in theScore media app and you’re populating a bet slip … and we envision getting there very quickly here in the U.S. with ESPN.”

Different Dynamics, Same Strategy

The dynamic between theScore and ESPN remains somewhat different for PENN Entertainment, as it owns the former company and is only licensing the brand of the latter in their large-scale partnership worth more than $2 billion. 

But Snowden said the operational philosophy remains very much the same, as it carries a goal of as much as 20% U.S. market share for ESPN Bet — a figure 10 times the penetration it achieved in its prior partnership with Barstool Sports.

“What’s really different for us is this deep integration behind the No. 1 sports media brand in the world and those sports who like to bet and want to bet, and the trust factor to do this seamlessly is something we take very seriously,” Snowden said. 

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