Recently in an interview with CNBC, Disney CEO Bob Iger left an option open to sell some of its TV assets as it struggles with cord cutting.
TV networks are seeing their ad revenue drop as advertisers cut back on their spending, hitting Disney hard in its TV business. This, plus the ever-growing popularity of cord cutting, has put extra pressure on Disney recently.
Exactly what networks or TV assets Disney may be open to selling is unknown at this time. Disney has a vast catalog of networks, some from Disney, like FreeForm, and others, like Natgeo, which came from its deal to buy 21st Century Fox.
During the interview, Bob Iger said not all of their networks are core to Disney. Even ESPN is on the chopping block, as Iger said, Disney may be open to many options, including a strategic partner or joint venture with ESPN that could see Disney selling part of ESPN.
Recently Jessica Reif Ehrich, a Managing Director for Bank of America, said she believes Comcast is the most likely partner to buy part of ESPN in a bigger deal for Comcast’s stake in Hulu. This comes from an interview on The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast.
Now Comcast’s President says that is “very improbable” as he shoots down a possible deal to swap Hulu ownership for ESPN.
“I’ve been asked about and read some speculation that in some way we might be interested in swapping businesses [with Disney]… in the sports space,” Mike Cavanagh President of Comcast said on Comcast’s Q2 earnings call. “And I would just say that that’s very improbable,” He went on to say, “So I would put aside the idea that there’s… anything inorganic, you know, that is likely to happen around ESPN in particular, which is what we’ve been asked about,”
This comes as CNBC recently reported that Disney is in talks with the NFL, NBA, and MLB to have them take joint ownership of ESPN along with Disney.
According to CNBC the talks with the NFL could include Disney taking a stake in the NFL Network, NFL.com, and RedZone. This could help both sides benefit by giving the NFL access to ESPN productions and Disney access to NFL money.
Disney currently owns 80% of ESPN, and Hearst owns 20%. Disney could easily sell part of ESPN to the NFL, NBA, and MLB and still own a controlling majority of ESPN.
For now, it seems that a deal with Comcast is unlikely, but Disney is still looking for partners to buy part of ESPN.