Disney is placing its bets on sports streaming and the metaverse

Disney today reiterated its commitment to expanding its sports streaming portfolio, with Disney boss Bob Chapek confirming that the company is bidding on the NFL Sunday Ticket. Disney also plans to innovate its product around sports-focused features and its still vague metaverse plans.

Chapek confirmed the NFL Sunday Ticket news in a interview with CNBC in which he discussed Disney’s first-quarter revenue for fiscal 2022. When asked by CNBC’s Julia Boorstin whether securing the rights is part of Disney’s roadmap, Chapek replied, “We’re bidding on it.” If the investment creates value for Disney shareholders, he added, “We’ll go ahead and do it, but the moment it doesn’t, we’ll pull out. And we hope so.”

During the company’s earnings call, Chapek reiterated that sports programming is a critical part of the company’s streaming strategy, touting the success of programming on its subsidiary ESPN.

“Sports events remain the strongest draw on television, accounting for 95 of the 100 most-watched live broadcasts in 2021. And ESPN once again raised the bar this quarter with live games in each of our four major American sports, including the revolutionary Monday Night featuring Peyton and Eli,” said Chapek. Disney will add alternate programming for UFC, golf and college football events over the next three years, he added.

“It extends to sports betting, gaming and the Metaverse.”

But Disney’s sports strategy isn’t just limited to acquiring rights and game coverage. Disney has said that betting offers a huge opportunity for growth and interactivity, especially as legalization continues in the US.

“While multi-platform television and streaming will remain the foundation of sports coverage for the foreseeable future, we believe the opportunity for The Walt Disney Company extends well beyond these channels,” said Chapek. “It extends to sports betting, gaming and the Metaverse. In fact, that’s what excites us: the opportunity to build a sports machine that resembles our franchise flywheel and allows the public to experience, interact with and actively engage with their favorite sports events, stories, teams and players. ”

Chapek also went into Disney’s metaverse plans – something he keeps bringing up with no real details of what it might look like.

“We realize that going forward – you can call it what you want, you want to call it metavers, you want to call it the blending of the physical and digital experiences, which I think Disney should excel at – we realize it’s going to be less of a passive, play-only experience, be it a sporting event or entertainment offering, and more of an interactive, lean-forward, actively engaged experience.”

Product innovation, Chapek added, “is a very top priority for us.”

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