Disney Is Spending Billions To Buy New Friends and Save Its Streaming Business

in Disney, Movies & TV, Sports, Television

Bob Iger with Disney stock price.

Credit: ITM

When Disney CEO Bob Iger returned to the Walt Disney Company two years ago, he had a long list of things to fix. Near the top of that list was what to do with ESPN.

In the last decade, over-the-air cable has lost more than 25 million subscribers while people have cut the cord and moved to streaming services. This left Disney’s flagship network with fewer subscribers and having to pay millions to air professional football, basketball, and baseball games.

Two football players for Superbowl 2024
Credit: ESPN

So, Iger did what any good CEO would do: He realized that ESPN would have to change to a streaming-only service and find a strategic partner.

Now, it appears that Disney and ESPN have a strategic partner—the biggest in the world. NBC Sports is reporting that the National Football League is “all but signed” on a deal that would give the NFL a stake in ESPN and allow ESPN to take over the NFL Network and NFL Redzone Network.

This deal would give ESPN more access to the league, including the Super Bowl and NFL Draft. It would also give ESPN the inside track to win the NFL’s television contracts when they are up in a decade.

For the NFL, it would allow them to get out from underneath the NFL Network and turn it over to experts in the industry.

Bob Iger sitting alongside ESPN and Disney+ logos
Credit: Masterclass/Inside the Magic

It’s hard to understate just how big the NFL is in America. According to Variety, of the top 30 most-watched programs in 2023, only three were not NFL games.

ESPN already has a contract with the league to broadcast Monday Night Football, but this partnership will give ESPN access to the NFL’s library of games and original programming. ESPN will also air the NFL’s Red Zone Network, which shows every score of every NFL game on Sunday.

With the Walt Disney Company transitioning ESPN to streaming-only, this partnership gives the network access to some of the most significant sports events. ESPN already broadcasts the College Football Playoff, NFL Playoffs, NBA Playoffs, NCAA Baseball World Series, and NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, which, thanks to Caitlin Clark, had the highest ratings in history.

This deal also gives ESPN access to some NFL Network reporters with deep ties with league players and coaches.

CEO Bob Iger clarifies Disney decision of strategic partnerships
Credit: Disney | ESPN

The partnership with the NFL comes on the heels of ESPN signing a deal to continue broadcasting the NBA. That deal could be worth $6 billion annually for the NBA.

No financial details were released. This could be one of the many announcements made by Disney CEO Bob Iger this week during the company’s earnings call.

What do you think of ESPN’s partnership with the NFL?

in Disney, Movies & TV, Sports, Television

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