The last month has been a wild ride for anyone following Disney or ESPN. Back in June, during an interview with CNBC, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he was open to partnering with other companies to make a new ESPN streaming service work. He even said he was open to the idea of selling part of ESPN to a third party.
Since that interview, reports have been flying about who Disney is talking to. Major sports leagues, including the NFL, and rivals like Comcast have all been suggested as potential ESPN Partners.
A few weeks ago, the New York Post reported that Disney has been in talks with media companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, and T-Mobile, to name a few. The goal is reportedly to take advantage of their technology to help expand the reach of ESPN’s new direct-to-consumer streaming service.
Now The Information is reporting that Verizon and Disney have started talks about a possible partnership with Verizon and ESPN. Verizon could be a great partner for its technology and a possible bundle deal similar to the Disney+ bundle Verizon recently offered to its wireless subscribers.
This comes as CNBC reported late last month 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.
It is possible Disney is talking with all of these companies about different options. Or Disney could just be feeling out multiple companies to see who would be the best fit for ESPN.
Disney owns 80% of ESPN, and the rest is owned by Hearst. Disney would likely want to keep as much ownership as possible, but if the right partner comes along it may be open to selling part of the storied sports network.
Verizon’s deal with ESPN may not include any ownership but instead a partnership to help both companies.
For now, we will have to wait and see what happens. No matter what happens, the next few months are likely going to be full of speculation as one of the biggest names in TV is up for grabs. This could drive many companies to see what deal they could strike with Disney.