One of the biggest cash generators for Disney over the past few decades has been ESPN, but as the entertainment business continues to shift from linear to streaming, there has been lots of talk about the future of ESPN. Will it go fully direct to streaming? Will Disney sell ESPN?
Recently, Disney CEO Bob Iger took part in a 40-minute interview on CNBC and spoke about the future of ESPN and sports in general. He is still very bullish over sports and sees great value in it, both from a business point of view, such as in advertising and how many people watch sports.
Bob explained that they aren’t looking to get out of the sports business, but they are looking for a strategic partner for ESPN and have had talks with other companies about it. He explained that nothing is off the table with regards to finding a strategic partner for ESPN, and they are looking for someone who could provide value, such as capital, content value, distribution, etc. It’s unclear exactly how this could work, spreading out the risk with having a partner, which could be Comcast, Apple, or Amazon, though he declined to name specific partners.
Disney is aggressively looking at its businesses, especially focusing on profitability and moving away from linear businesses that aren’t growing any more, but are actually getting smaller.
Also during the interview, Bob Iger spoke about the plans for ESPN to go fully into streaming and has an idea when he wants to launch it, but wouldn’t go into any further detail about when that would be.
Currently, Disney owns 80% of ESPN, while Hearst Communications owns the other 20%. So by bringing in another partner, it could reduce some of its own debts, having purchased 20th Century Fox in 2019 and having to pay out billions for Hulu in the next year. Earlier this year, Bob Iger reorganised Disney into three core divisions, Entertainment, Theme Parks & Resorts and ESPN, which many believed opened the door for Disney to sell ESPN since it could become its own separate business.
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Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.