The new kid on the online sports betting block is setting a record pace for downloads, but there is a bit of fine print that goes with ESPN BET’s recent run.
Analysts with investment bank Jefferies said in a note to clients on Sunday that data shows more than 1.2 million downloads of ESPN BET since it went live in 17 states on Nov. 14, including roughly 235,000 downloads on its first full day.
“This represents the highest downloads for a sportsbook app in a single day, a record previously held by DraftKings for 210k downloads on the day of Super Bowl 2023,” the Jefferies analysts said.
More ESPN BET data from Jefferies. According to a recent report, the ~235K ESPN BET downloads on day one was a daily record for sportsbook apps.— Geoff Zochodne (@GeoffZochodne) November 27, 2023
ESPN BET is also accounting for 77% of downloads among leading apps since launching, ahead of DraftKings with 8% and FanDuel at 7%. pic.twitter.com/qVVYuwun9b
The first day of ESPN BET downloads also eclipsed the roughly 158,000 downloads of FanDuel during Super Bowl Sunday 2022, as well as the 148,000 and 127,000 or so downloads the operator reported for Super Bowl Sunday of 2021 and 2023, respectively.
Jefferies said ESPN BET was responsible for 77% of all downloads among “leading” apps since it launched, with DraftKings at 8% in second and FanDuel at 7% in third.
Meanwhile, analysts from JMP Securities wrote in a note to clients published Nov. 21 that the first six days of ESPN BET, wherein 1.1 million downloads of the app occurred, represented "the most downloads over a multi-day period in the history of online gaming.”
The next highest six-day total was FanDuel during the run-up to Super Bowl 2022 at around 468,000, analyst Jordan Bender noted.
“The app runs clean, in our view, but the only negative we observed was the lack of ESPN and betting app integration,” Bender wrote to clients. “The pitch on the partnership has been the media cross-sell, fantasy integration and live streaming capabilities across the enterprise. At this point, the integrations do not appear to be evident, and with +1M players migrating to the app, players are now using a product fairly comparable to its peers within the industry.”
Poked and prodded and prompted
User experience aside, saying that players are “migrating” to ESPN BET is notable, as a good chunk of its downloads is coming from previous users of Barstool Sportsbook.
PENN Entertainment Inc. is the operator behind both brands, but it cut ties to the Barstool name this summer and rebranded the online sportsbook to ESPN BET as part of a $2-billion marketing deal with ESPN.
Barstool Sportsbook users were nudged by PENN to download the new ESPN BET app, which is driving at least some of the numbers reported recently. That may make it hard to sort out how many new users PENN is acquiring and how many preexisting bettors switched from one app to another.
Gaming industry consultants Eilers & Krejcik wrote last week that “download numbers are not a great measure of success, with existing Barstool Sportsbook users in 17 states prompted to download the app, as well as adverts on the main ESPN website for all states, not just legal betting states.”
Indeed, some of the ESPN BET downloads could be in states where the online sportsbook can’t be used, such as places with no legal sports betting.
In an email the week of the ESPN BET launch, Eilers & Krejcik clocked ESPN BET as the seventh or eighth “best” app in the market based on testing. Nevertheless, the consultants expected the book to improve in future quarters as more features are added and integrations inserted.
“While some players on social media were unhappy that ESPN Bet was a reskinned Barstool Sportsbook, we don't expect that to be the case for too long,” they wrote. “The focus at Penn has been first and foremost on load stability under the expected flood of new customers. However over the next 6-9 months, we expect more bells and whistles to be added, including: early payouts, featured/trending bets, a parlay hub, streaming, and data viz.”