ESPN may still not know its sports wagering end game with regard to whether it will have its own sportsbook or partner with one, but the Disney-owned network and multimedia platform is definitely making the commitment to content as betting continues to expand across the United States.
ESPN recently announced an expansion of programming that includes new shows across multiple platforms and expanded roles for on-air talent. The moves, which coincided with the start of the NFL season — the primary driver of sports betting in the U.S. — are designed to keep ESPN front and center in a rapidly changing landscape where content is available at every turn.
“We have been continuing to add to our sports betting content since launching Daily Wager in 2019,” said ESPN Vice President of Fantasy & Sports Betting Content Scott Clark in an email exchange with Sports Handle. “These additions have been in the works for some time, with eyes on launching right around a popular time such as football season.”
ESPN has separate deals with Caesars and DraftKings when it comes to sports wagering and daily fantasy sports, having signed exclusive link-out deals with the two entities in September 2020. Caesars Sportsbook, which was known as William Hill at the time the deals were announced, is the exclusive odds provider for the network, while DraftKings is its exclusive DFS content provider.
Those deals, though, also served as a precursor for long-running speculation as to whether ESPN would launch its own sportsbook. The subject seemingly comes up during every Disney quarterly earnings conference call, though CEO Bob Chapek told CNBC last week that ESPN would need a partner for a sportsbook because “we’re never going to be a book, that’s never in the cards for the Walt Disney Company.”
New doings at ‘Daily Wager’
The most notable change to the lineup takes place with ESPN’s cornerstone sports gambling show Daily Wager, which launched in March 2019. Longtime host Doug Kezirian now has the title “ESPN Sports Betting Insider” and will have an increased presence across the network’s platforms, including appearing on other studio shows and writing multiple columns weekly for ESPN.com. ESPN Sports Betting Analyst Tyler Fulghum has taken over Daily Wager hosting duties, a jump both he and Clark are confident he can handle.
Fulghum, who joined ESPN and Daily Wager in August 2020, noted his biggest adjustment will be needing to “focus my time more on script-writing than I did before,” but he feels “hosting plays into my biggest strengths on air of having fun and setting up my colleagues to look as good as possible.” Fulghum added he is “incredibly excited to see how the show evolves” in the coming months.
“We see each position as crucial to the overall product and the changes were about leveraging the strengths of our talent,” Clark said, and noted the network envisions Kezirian occupying a space for sports wagering similar to Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski with the NFL and NBA. “With Tyler, we are excited to see how his charisma and energy will translate to the host chair. He excelled in his hosting opportunities and has a long history as a show host.”
Fulghum will have a familiar face with him at Daily Wager in Joe Fortenbaugh, who has been with the show since launch and recently signed a multi-year deal to remain with ESPN. Fortenbaugh will also have a new digital show/podcast starting in January, and Clark views him as a “big part of our investment in sports betting content.”
Other new shows and more faces in more places
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— Erin Kate Dolan (@erinkatedolan) September 20, 2022
ESPN is also making its first sports wagering foray into Snapchat through Erin Dolan, whose weekly Bet with Erin Dolan shows can be seen each Monday. Dolan will also appear on Monday Tailgate prior to ESPN’s Monday Night Football telecasts and continue to contribute analysis to Daily Wager on ESPN2, Bet on its digital platform, and various other shows across ESPN.
“It is our first betting content on Snapchat, but we can take learnings from previous efforts and implement them into Bet with Erin Dolan so we not only produce quality content, but set Erin up for success,” Clark said. “We have an incredibly strong team across digital and social who have created successful shows and we think Erin’s show will be next in that portfolio.”
ESPN commentator “Stanford” Steve Coughlin and researcher Chris “The Bear” Fallica have reunited for another season of weekly podcasts and have a picks column that runs Thursdays. Anchor Scott Van Pelt‘s “Winners” segment from his self-named SportsCenter show is now featured as a column appearing on Fridays.
Anita Marks now has a weekly sports betting show for ESPN Los Angeles, while recent addition and Daily Wager contributor Liz Loza authors a weekly NFL props column that merges both sports wagering and fantasy outlooks.
“We see sports betting as something that will be integrated across all platforms, both with specific programming and as part of existing shows,” Clark said. “We have Daily Wager on television, Bet available digitally, a strong editorial presence with our ESPN Chalk content, and multiple podcasts.
“As we look to the future with audio, we are continually looking at the best cadence and type of content for our podcasts. We have had success with Stanford Steve & The Bear on the podcast side and definitely see the potential for more growth there. On the radio side, we have expanded what we do in terms of betting integrations with Doug Kezirian contributing in a really smart way across shows across football weekends. While it’s not apples to apples with fantasy, we will be looking to emulate the success of Fantasy Focus Football in the sports betting space.”