‘Daily Wager’ Ratings Soar, but ESPN Reportedly Boots Host
ESPN says ratings for its “Daily Wager” program that airs on ESPN 2 are increasing, but the future of host Doug Kezirian is in limbo.
In a Thursday tweet, the sports broadcaster’s public relations department said “Daily Wager’s” ratings for the most recent pre-Super Bowl period, defined as September 2022 through February 2023, jumped 10% on a year-over-year basis. Following the big game, the show’s ratings climbed 15% through June. This year, the show notched double-digit viewership increases in five of the first six months of 2023, with April being the outlier. In the fourth month of the year, “Daily Wager” experienced a 9% year-over-year viewership increase.
It’s likely no more than coincidence, but the timing of the tweet from the ESPN PR department is interesting because it arrived just days after speculation surfaced the network isn’t renewing the contract of “Daily Wager” host Doug Kezirian, potentially adding his name to an increasingly lengthy list of layoffs at the unit of Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS).
Neither Disney nor Kezirian have publicly confirmed that speculation, and his Twitter profile still contains references to ESPN.
ESPN Sports Betting Ties
There’s been long-running speculation that Disney is interested in acquisitions to further its sports wagering footprint, but no such deal has materialized. With Bob Iger’s recent return to the helm of the entertainment and media giant, such a transaction may be put on the back burner as the company grapples with other content woes and theme park attendance, among other issues.
Still, the synergies between ESPN and sports wagering are obvious, and the network has been able to wring some benefits from the sports betting boom without having to be involved in booking bets. For example, ESPN inked lucrative agreements with Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ: CZR) and DraftKings (NASDAQ: DKNG) in 2020.
There have also been rumors that the sports network would like to license its venerable brand to a gaming company, but the previously speculated asking price may be out of reach for many gaming companies.
Disney owns 6% of DraftKings nonvoting equity, which the entertainment conglomerate got via its $71.3 billion takeover of 21st Century Fox in 2019. The sportsbook operator was one of the largest advertisers across ESPN networks in the days leading up to the Super Bowl earlier this year.
‘Daily Wager; Example of ESPN Getting it Right in Betting
While Disney is addressing larger-scale content issues and the future of Kezirian with the company isn’t yet known, “Daily Wager” is an example of ESPN making a smart move regarding sports betting content.
Today, sports wagering is live and legal in 34 states and in Washington, DC, with another four states waiting in the wings to join the “live” party. In other words, the industry is growing in the US, and “Daily Wager” allows ESPN to participate in that growth without having to deal with thorny regulatory issues associated with running sportsbooks.
Then there’s the obvious benefit of “Daily Wager’s” rising ratings: ESPN can potentially tap advertisers for more money as the show’s popularity increases.
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