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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Will ESPN’s Financials Impact Its Search For Strategic Investors?

  • Operating profit and revenue declines for sports media giant
  • Newly released numbers are part of Disney's new financial reporting structure
ESPN camera operator at a basketball game.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been no secret that ESPN and parent company Disney have been under growing stress.

The causes have been clear: layoffs, industry-wide cord-cutting, carriage battles, and a potential sale of all the company’s linear properties. But now, the public — and potential ESPN equity partners — can put a number on how much pressure the sports media giant is facing.

Disney said its sport division’s operating profit — deriving from ESPN itself and Star India — fell 20% to $1.48 billion in the first nine months of fiscal 2023 from $1.85 billion in the comparable period last year. Revenue fell by 1.3% in the same period to $13.2 billion.

However, ESPN specifically generated $11.49 billion for the first nine months of fiscal 2023 and $1.89 billion of operating income — figures that still show some relative health amid a fractured media landscape. 

The disclosures to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission mark the first time Disney has broken out its sports results in this fashion. They precede a corporate reorganization and new financial reporting structure that will take effect with the company’s fiscal fourth quarter of 2023. 

Wall Street analysts said that structure will provide potential equity partners a clearer picture on the state of the business, particularly as ESPN moves toward developing a full, direct-to-consumer version of the network. 

Already, the possible suitors include several top pro leagues including the NFL, Amazon, and Verizon

“The new reporting structure should help frame a more concrete debate around Disney’s strategic options and its valuation framework,” wrote Barclays analyst Kannan Venkateshwar in an investor note. 

A separate research note from Bloomberg Intelligence’s Geetha Ranganathan said Disney’s sports business could now be worth as much as $22 billion.

Disney is due to report its next set of quarterly earnings on Nov. 8.

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