Disney's sports broadcasting giant ESPN, with a potential valuation of approximately $24 billion, is capturing the attention of tech titans like Amazon, Apple, and Verizon, according to insights from a Bank of America analyst note. The note suggests that these major players could assist Disney in its transition from traditional linear TV to the streaming realm.
While Disney intends to retain ownership of ESPN, it has been actively seeking strategic partnerships to create a comprehensive streaming service for its sports network, sources have disclosed. This move is especially vital since prominent programs like Monday Night Football are not currently available on ESPN+'s existing streaming platform.
Disney, which holds an 80% stake in ESPN, while Hearst owns the remaining 20%, is considering selling a portion of the company to new investors while preserving its majority ownership, as per the analyst note.
The note also posits that a partnership between Disney and another corporation could serve as a bridge to a streaming edition of ESPN, infusing capital to enhance ESPN's offerings and potentially enabling Disney to divest ESPN in the future. In addition to potential tech company suitors, the Bank of America report suggests that sports leagues such as the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA), as well as distribution companies like Verizon, could become investment partners.
The report emphasises the need for ESPN to shift to a direct-to-consumer model in response to the declining number of traditional TV subscribers. ESPN generated a substantial profit of $2.9 billion for Disney during fiscal year 2022, nearly $1 billion more than what Disney's entertainment business earned in the same period, as reported by Axios.