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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

ESPN Investors Not A Sure Thing, Disney CEO Says

  • Disney CEO Bob Iger is walking back some comments about selling a stake in ESPN.
  • The company has had discussions with sports leagues and tech companies about investing.
Disney
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of Disney selling a stake in ESPN — or even the majority of the network — has been one of the hottest topics in sports media this year. 

However, the move may not be as certain as previously thought.

ESPN has an estimated sale value of $24 billion, and Disney has confirmed discussions with several entities about an equity partnership in the sports channel. Sources previously told Front Office Sports that talks with the NFL and NBA as potential ESPN buyers had been heating up.

During a companywide town hall on Tuesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that financial partners for ESPN’s future plans are not mandatory. “We could go it alone,” Iger said. “We are fully prepared to do that. It would be a little more challenging if we did.” Iger did reiterate that Disney has been speaking to sports leagues and tech companies.

Iger also took exception to the reaction and fallout from his comments in July that he was open to selling major assets like ESPN, as well as other crucial parts of Disney’s business: “I did not think everyone would run with a story that everything is being sold, which is not the case.”

ESPN’s Streaming Future

Still in the works are plans to make the flagship ESPN channel available via a new direct-to-consumer streaming option no later than 2025.

“We don’t just want to flip the switch,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said. “We don’t want to just move our networks over and make them available over the top without significant product enhancements.” Pitaro was referring to special features like advanced stats and fantasy sports and sports betting integrations. 

A price point is still being determined, Iger said.

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