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, 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.
Now Jessica Reif Ehrich, a Managing Director for Bank of America, says 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.
The timing seems to be perfect for Comcast. Recently Comcast shut down its NBC Sports Network. Now it could use a partnership with ESPN as a minority owner to help expand its sports offering through NBC and the USA Network.
This partnership could also see NBC and ESPN partnering on a new NBA deal, as TV rights will soon come up for renewal.
Now Amazon, Max, Peacock, Apple TV, Paramount+, and more are all bidding on sports creating new competition. Comcast and Disney could work together to get a joint partnership to help them fight off a growing number of streaming services that want to compete with them.
Disney currently owns 80% of ESPN, and Hearst owns 20%. Disney could easily sell an additional 20% and still own a controlling majority of ESPN.
As Awful Announcing points out, Comcast still owns about 1/3 of Hulu, a stake that is reportedly worth about $30 billion. To help Disney save some cash, they could work a deal out to buy full control of Hulu and, at the same time, sell a stake in ESPN to Comcast.
For now, we will have to wait and see what happens.