Disney's Sports Betting Leap Sparks Concerns Among Mickey Mouse Fans

In a surprising turn of events, Walt Disney Co DIS has taken a bold leap into sports betting, raising concerns about alienating its core audience of Mickey Mouse fans.

 In early 2019, Disney CEO Bob Iger firmly stated his opposition to any involvement in sports betting, believing it to be incompatible with Disney's wholesome brand.

Also Read: Disney's Parks and Linear Networks Face Headwinds, Analyst Lowers Expectations For Q4

Fast forward just four years, and Disney has entered a 10-year deal with sports-betting company PENN Entertainment, Inc PENN, introducing gambling to its ESPN sports network. 

Sports enthusiasts can now place bets on games through the ESPN Bet app from November, marking a significant departure from Disney's traditional image, the Wall Street Journal reports.

This move has sent shockwaves through the company, as it faces internal resistance from executives and employees who fear that this foray into sports betting might tarnish Disney's reputation as a family-friendly brand synonymous with princesses and talking cartoon characters. 

Concerns arose about the potential alienation of Disney's loyal fanbase, including Disney+ subscribers and theme park visitors, who may not align with the world of sports gambling.

Despite these reservations, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro and former CEO Bob Iger saw the potential to engage a younger male audience and increase revenue through sports betting. 

The decision comes when ESPN grapples with declining cable subscriptions and increasing sports-broadcasting costs, making betting an attractive avenue for expansion.

As Disney ventures further into sports betting, it faces the challenge of balancing its iconic brand image with the demands of an evolving entertainment landscape, risking the alienation of the very fans who have cherished Disney's wholesome ideals for generations.

Price Actions: DIS shares traded lower by 0.90% at $83.60 on the last check Friday.

Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

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