Disney is open to selling a portion of its equity in ESPN to a strategic partner, CEO Bob Iger said in an interview with CNBC.
In addition to selling a stake in ESPN, Iger said he’s open to selling or spinning off Disney’s other linear TV networks — including ABC, FX, National Geographic, and Freeform.
Iger returned to run Disney last year after stepping down as CEO in 2020. On Wednesday, Disney announced his contract extension through 2026. But the extension arrives as cable subscription numbers continue to drop and the company has planned layoffs to 7,000 people — with many high-profile ESPN employees affected.
“The challenges are greater than I had anticipated,” Iger said. “The disruption of the traditional TV business is most notable. If anything, the disruption of that business has happened to a greater extent than even I was aware.”
Iger added that Disney has held early conversations with potential partners that could improve ESPN’s streaming service by extending its distribution and adding content. Disney already operates the ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu streaming services.
Disney owns 80% of ESPN. The remaining 20% is owned by Hearst Communications.