Disney wants to transition ESPN from linear TV to broadcast, and the NBA and NFL could be the partners to help the company do that. According to CNBCDisney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN leader Jimmy Pitaro have held talks with both leagues to bring them in as minority investors in the sports network.
In an interview with CNBC last week, Iger hinted at the sale of some of Disney’s linear TV assets, such as ABC, but noted that sports content on ESPN still “holds up very, very high” with the ability to reach millions of people. However, when asked about bringing ESPN to broadcast, Iger mentioned having “strategic partners” who could help complete that shift away from cable.
“We are going to have an open mind to look for strategic partners”
“We’re going to be open-minded about looking for strategic partners who can help us with distribution or content,” Iger said. “I’m not going to go into too much detail about it, but we’re bullish on sports in general as a media property.”
If sports leagues decide to participate in ESPN, CNBC notes that this could ruffle the feathers of some of Disney’s rivals, such as NBCUniversal and Fox, as it may result in the teams working more closely with ESPN than with other networks. It could also mean less money for the NFL and NBA, which often strike lucrative deals with various media partners during the season.