Back in July of 2023, 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. This included selling part of ESPN to a partner. That was quickly followed up by a report that Disney is in talks with the NFL, NBA, and MLB to have them take joint ownership of ESPN along with Disney.
Now the New York Post has reported that ESPN and the NFL are in advanced talks that would see the NFL buy part of ESPN. This would also give ESPN control over the NFL Network and other NFL media properties.
CNBC First reported that these talks with the NFL would 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. The Wall Street Journal also added that the NFL+ service could be a part of this deal with Disney.
Disney currently owns 80% of ESPN, and Hearst owns 20%. Disney could easily sell part of ESPN to the NFL and NBA and still own a controlling majority of ESPN.
NFL money could help ESPN finalize the new streaming service. A partnership could also see ESPN subscribers to this service get exclusive NFL content.
For now, we will have to wait and see what happens. Now that ESPN is building its own direct-to-consumer streaming service, it clearly is looking for partners to help make that a reality. Disney reportedly hopes to launch this ESPN streaming service in 2025.