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Friday, June 14, 2024

Analyst: ESPN Spinoff ‘Probable’ in 2023

  • Last month, Disney announced Bob Iger would return as CEO.
  • Wells Fargo analyst Steve Cahall said an ESPN spinoff would make Disney "an attractive pureplay IP company."
Disney is open to potentially selling an equity stake in ESPN.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Disney’s executive switch-up could indicate a future ESPN spinoff.

The company announced last month that Bob Iger, who was Disney CEO from 2005 to 2020, will replace his hand-picked successor, Bob Chapek.

Iger resisted an ESPN spinoff in the last years of his prior run as Disney CEO, but Wells Fargo analyst Steve Cahall said he could see a spinoff happening soon.

“We think Bob Iger is returning to [Disney] ready to make big changes,” he said, adding that a spinoff would make the Mouse “an attractive pureplay IP company.”

  • ESPN isn’t considered an intellectual property, but Cahall said Disney has become a “franchise IP leader with global scale” through other acquisitions.
  • “With linear and sports trends diverging from core IP, we think severing the company is increasingly logical,” he said.

“Investors can build their own portfolios, and we think ESPN inside of [Disney] is a portfolio with less and less logical connection as time goes by,” Cahall said. “As such, to us it’s a reasonably probable event for late 2023.”

In the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, 2022, ESPN lost 2 million subscribers.

Walt Disney logo at pitch level inside stadium

ESPN, Disney Channel Each Lost 2M Subscribers

The networks lost 2 million subscribers each in the last fiscal year.
November 30, 2022

ESPN Opinions

Activist investor Dan Loeb previously pushed for a spinoff but backed off after he gained “a better understanding of ESPN’s potential as a standalone business.”

In September, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said Disney sees “ESPN as being part of our overall portfolio.”

“We’re very much against spinning off ESPN … that’s the dumbest thing ever,” Jason Bazinet, managing director at Citi, said last month.

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