Disney wants to transition ESPN from linear TV to streaming — and the NBA and NFL might be the partners that help the company do that. According to CNBC, Disney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN leader Jimmy Pitaro held talks with both leagues about bringing them on as minority investors in the sports network.
In an interview with CNBC last week, Iger hinted at selling some of Disney’s linear TV assets like ABC but noted sports content on ESPN still “stands very, very tall” with the ability to reach millions of people. However, when asked about bringing ESPN to streaming, Iger mentioned having “strategic partners” that could help complete that shift away from cable.
“We’re going to be open-minded about looking for strategic partners”
“We’re going to be open-minded about looking for strategic partners that could either help us with distribution or content,” Iger said. “I’m not gonna get too detailed about it, but we’re bullish about sports in general as a media property.”
If the sports leagues decide to take a stake in ESPN, CNBC points out 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 rather than other networks. It might mean less money for the NFL and NBA, too, which often strike lucrative deals with several media partners during the season.