Back in July 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 Wall Street Journal is reporting that talks are still underway with the NFL and NBA for a possible partnership. ESPN and MLB are now in talks about possibly offering some in-market only games on ESPN.
It is also being reported by the Wall Street Journal that ESPN will become a fully direct-to-consumer streaming service in the coming years. Exactly what that means for the future of its cable TV partnerships is unknown. What exactly a fully direct-to-consumer streaming service
According to the report from the Wall Street Journal the NBA and NFL would offer their games to be aired on ESPN in exchange for a small share of ESPN. Exactly how much the NBA and NFL would own of ESPN is unknown. These talks are reportedly still in the early stages, and anything could happen with them.
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. The Wall Street Journal also added that the NFL+ service could be a part of this deal with Disney.
The NBA is also reportedly looking at including the NBA League Pass package as part of this deal.
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.
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.