Media mogul Byron Allen has made a $10 billion bid to buy the ABC television network and Disney’s cable channels, including the FX and National Geographic cable channels, an Allen spokesperson confirmed Friday.
It follows reports that Disney has also held exploratory discussions about selling ABC to regional television station operator Nexstar Media, which owns cable news network NewsNation.
The news panicked ABC News staff, with one saying CNN: ‘Everyone is panicking.’
A Disney spokesperson said in a statement: “While we are open to considering a variety of strategic options for our linear businesses, at this time, The Walt Disney Company has not taken any decision regarding the transfer of ABC or any other property and any report to this effect is unfounded.
The discussions come after Disney CEO Bob Iger said in July that the company might sell some of its traditional television assets, which have struggled for years due to the rise of streaming services.
Media mogul Byron Allen (left) has made a $10 billion bid to buy the ABC television network and Disney’s cable channels, including the FX and National Geographic cable channels. The discussions come after Disney CEO Bob Iger (R) said in July that the company might sell some of its traditional television assets, which have struggled for years due to the rise of streaming services.
Iger’s remarks sparked speculation that he intends to reduce Disney to a set of core assets built around the company’s legendary characters and franchises, with an eye toward selling the company as part of a a mega-deal.
A television industry executive told CNN that although ABC News and its high-profile anchors such as David Muir were once “the jewel in Iger’s crown,” the CEO now sees them as replaceable.
“Iger is unsentimental and cold-blooded. He will do what is best and necessary for Disney. He will not hesitate to part with his well-paid friends, chase away his beloved networks or sell the crown jewels,” the person said.
Disney acquired Capital Cities/ABC in 1995 for $19 billion, a deal overseen by former CEO Michael Eisner.
That price also included the acquisition of ESPN, which is not part of ABC’s sales discussions — although Iger separately discussed the possibility of running ESPN as a joint venture with new strategic partners.
In July, Iger suggested during a CNBC interview that the company’s television business, including its stations and cable channels, “may not be core to Disney.”
His remarks sparked a frenzy of activity among bankers and private equity players, who began evaluating whether they should “take action”, one banker told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It sends a signal to investors,” the banker said. “It makes people think.”
ABC News and its high-profile anchors such as David Muir have long been considered key assets in the Disney empire, but Iger appears to be re-evaluating that situation.
Iger fueled this speculation during Disney’s third-quarter earnings conference call, when he said the company was mulling strategic partnerships for its marquee sports brand, ESPN, and had received a ” significant interest”, even though Disney planned to retain control.
Iger said the three businesses that will generate the most growth over the next five years are the company’s movie studios, theme parks and streaming video.
Some executives speculated that Iger’s end goal would be a sale of Disney itself.
To make it attractive to only those potential buyers big enough to stomach a Disney – Apple or Alphabet’s Google – Iger would have to reduce Disney to only parties that preserve its global intellectual property portfolio, while separating its legacy cash-generating businesses like LA TV.
“There’s no way a FAANG company is going to buy out their company when they own all these cable channels, a broadcast network and a cable sports network,” the executive said, using an acronym for the five major American technology companies, Facebook (now Meta), Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google.
“It’s not their job, and it’s unlikely the government will ever allow it.”