When PENN Entertainment forked over $2 billion to buy Canadian-based Score Media and Gaming in August 2021, it was among the biggest acquisitions in the sports betting world. And it seemed to many like an awful lot of money to spend on a media and wagering platform that at the time served four U.S. legal betting states — in addition, of course, to our neighbor to the north.
Fast forward two years and the buy seems ingenious. It is the technology that theScore developed that helped make PENN an attractive partner to ESPN.
PENN and the Worldwide Leader in Sports are poised to launch ESPN BET in 17 U.S. states on Tuesday, while theScore and theScoreBet were well ahead of their time two years ago, offering consumers the opportunity to read about their favorite team and place a bet, seemingly all in the same place. That’s exactly what ESPN and ESPN BET will offer, PENN CEO Jay Snowden said Thursday during the ESPN Edge media event in the New York borough of Manhattan.
“You can actually put together your bet slip while you’re in the media app,” Snowden said. “You place your bet and we seamlessly move you over to theScoreBet in Canada or ESPN BET here. The bet slip will be moving along with you.”
That kind of experience is not available on any other betting platform in the U.S., and if you think the experience is in any way underrated, think again. Snowden said that 73% of wagers placed on theScoreBet originate from consumers reading about sports on theScore. ESPN gets about 600 million site visits per month, the vast majority from the key wagering demographic of men aged 25-44, according to the analytics site SimilarWeb.com. Comparatively, theScore gets about 3.2 million site visits per month, the vast majority also from men aged 25-44.
“Fans want something that is frictionless, and people want to feel like they are not cheating on ESPN to go someplace else to place a bet,” Snowden said during a live conversation with ESPN BET Vice President of Betting and Fantasy Mike Morrison. “So we are going to do everything we can to make if feel like you are still in the ecosystem.”
SVP, Duncan will kick off ESPN BET ad campaign
The conversation was part of a larger media event during which ESPN executives and guests discussed media innovation, talent integration, analytics, the art of storytelling, and more.
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Snowden and Morrison touched on a vast array of topics related to ESPN BET, including sharing some creative stills from new advertisements that will launch next week and describing how current ESPN talent will play a key role in the launch and success of ESPN BET. The goal remains to engage sports fans in general, and not sports betting fans specifically.
Morrison shared a clip that featured Scott Van Pelt in an advertisement that is currently airing, as well as stills from ads featuring Van Pelt and fellow ESPN sports anchor Elle Duncan, saying that both will be witty and “feel like they’re from SportsCenter.” The ads will be the basis on which ESPN BET grows its advertising, marketing, and promotional spots going forward.
Snowden also enthusiastically discussed ESPN BET’s latest promotion, in which consumers can win an “exclusive trip to ESPN Bristol Headquarters” for providing an email address. Only consumers in the 17 legal states that ESPN BET will launch in are eligible.
Snowden said his first visit to ESPN headquarters was earlier this year, and it was “a dream come true.” He then added, “We’ve already got tens of thousands of emails and we haven’t put much behind it.”
In a 30-minute presentation at The Seaport at Pier 17, Snowden recalled his initial meeting with ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, who opened his remarks on Thursday by describing his enthusiasm for next week’s launch. During the meeting, Pitaro conveyed to Snowden that ESPN’s foray into sports betting wasn’t something that the network “wanted to do,” but rather something that it “needed to do.”
With the launch of what promises to be the most dissected sports betting platform since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in 2018, Snowden could hardly contain his excitement.
“We want to lead with the name ESPN BET so there’s a trust factor, and we had to have alignment on that vision of eliminating friction for that sports fan,” Snowden said. “And as you think about it from the PENN perspective, there’s only one ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports,’ and this was the opportunity of a century to do this with ESPN.”
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