The woes of Disney and ESPN have caught the attention of one money analyst who has suggested Disney should unload the 80 percent share of ESPN it owns. That prompted a day long discussion on Comcast’s CNBC from analysts, some of whom missed the 2008 financial meltdown but are still inexplicably employed by Comcast/CNBC to explain economics, of what the Disney should do with ESPN.
In February 2004, Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts made a $66 billion offer to take over Disney but the Disney board refused to play ball with the Philadelphia-based cable CEO. By 2004, Comcast had become the United States biggest cable TV multiple systems operator. Roberts went after the ABC TV network along with the Disney film studio, ESPN and other Disney-owned cable TV networks, the various ABC radio networks and theme parks. At the time, Roberts had a rather weak cable TV sports network, the Outdoor Life Network and a number of other cable entities including E! Entertainment Television, the Golf Channel and ownership in the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers and the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers. Disney rejected Roberts’s overtures.
In 2009, Roberts went after and got NBC Universal but there is a difference between Comcast and Disney. Disney is just a content provider while Comcast is one of the owners of the information highway.
Disney has shown no inclination that it wants to sell ESPN or spin it off into another company. There have to be concerns throughout the cable/satellite industry that people are cutting the cord and living without cable and are opting for different video delivery systems. The cable news networks are losing subscribers too but the difference is this, ESPN, NBC Sports, FOX sports is paying a premium price for programming and passing it onto subscribers, the others are not as invested.
As of now, there are no for sale signs on ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut lawn.
By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.