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Bob Iger, Adam Silver Promote Apple Vision Pro’s Impact on Sports

  • The Disney CEO and NBA commissioner talked up Apple’s mixed reality headset debuting next year for $3,499.
  • Iger is considering strategic partners for ESPN’s direct-to-consumer evolution. Can Apple be a fit?
Both executive see Apple's headset impacting sports viewing.
Photo illustration from Apple.
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Disney CEO Bob Iger and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver praised Apple’s new mixed reality headset and its potential impact on the sports viewing experience while both attended Allen & Co.’s “summer camp for billionaires” Sun Valley Conference in Idaho. 

“We’re working very closely with Apple,” Silver told the New York Post when asked about the NBA’s plans for the Vision Pro headset, which is due for release in early 2024. The NBA has an existing deal with Meta to stream games in virtual reality via its Quest headset.

“It’s interesting just thinking about the Apple announcement of a few weeks ago and what the possibilities that device lends itself to in terms of sports,” Iger told CNBC.

In the same interview, Iger said he’s open to finding a strategic partner to potentially buy an equity stake in ESPN, the cable giant that Disney plans to reform as a direct-to-consumer streaming product. 

“If they come to the table with value, whether its content value, distribution value, whether its capital or helps with de-risk of business to some extent—that wouldn’t be the primary driver— but if they come to the table with value that enables ESPN to make a transition to a direct-to-consumer offering, we’re gonna be very open minded about that,” Iger said. “We’ve been looking at it as an opportunity and have had some conversations.”

Perhaps some of those conversations the cost-cutting Disney is having could be with Apple, the tech giant with a market cap value of $3 trillion. In addition to its upcoming Vision Pro headset, the iPhone maker also owns the Apple TV+ streaming service that has spent on live rights to stream MLB and MLS. It struck a revenue-sharing agreement to bring global star Lionel Messi to America’s soccer league. 

After stepping down from the Mouse in 2020, Iger previously said that he was inspired to return to Disney by Steve Jobs and his comeback to run Apple. Among other ties between Apple and Disney, Jobs was also a majority shareholder in Pixar before selling it to Disney in 2006.

The NBA’s broadcast deal with ESPN runs through 2024-2025. At this point, the league is expected to seek $50 billion to $75 billion in rights fee negotiations expected to include Apple’s streaming competitor Amazon Prime Video.

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