ESPN in talks with US sports leagues for strategic alliance: CNBC
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9 months ago 06:00:58am Television

ESPN in talks with US sports leagues for strategic alliance: CNBC

New Delhi, July 25-2023, By IBW Team


Major changes are in the offing at Mouse House as CEO Bob Iger looks to trim the fat (read shed unviable or struggling businesses), including reported hunt for strategic partners for sports brand ESPN and Star India, which not so long ago contributed a sizable percentage of subscribers (through Hotstar) in the global numbers of Disney’s streaming business.

Now media reports in the US indicate that Disney is looking for strategic partner(s) for ESPN and according to a CNBC report on Friday last, Iger and ESPN head Jimmy Pitaro have held early talks about bringing professional sports leagues on as minority investors, including the National Football League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.

Quoting unnamed people familiar with the matter, the CNBC report said ESPN has held preliminary discussions with the NFL, NBA and MLB about a variety of new partnerships and investment structures, the people said.

In a statement, an NBA spokesperson said, “We have a longstanding relationship with Disney and look forward to continuing the discussions around the future of our partnership.”

Spokespeople for ESPN, the NFL and MLB declined to comment for the CNBC report.

Iger said recently in an interview with CNBC’s David Faber that Disney is looking for a strategic partner for ESPN as it prepares to transition the sports network to streaming. He didn’t elaborate on what exactly that meant beyond saying a partner could bring additional value with distribution or content. He acknowledged selling a stake in the business was possible.

Disney owns 80 percent of ESPN. Hearst owns the other 20 percent.

“Our position in sports is very unique and we want to stay in that business,” Iger said to Faber. “We’re going to be open minded about looking for strategic partners that could either help us with distribution or content. I’m not going to get too detailed about it, but we’re bullish about sports as a media property.”Theoretically, a jointly owned subscription streaming service among multiple leagues could eventually give consumers new packages of games and other innovative ways to take in content, the CNBC report elaborated.

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