Disney’s ESPN Dilemma: to Sell or Not to Sell?
The Town with Matthew Belloni
Mon, August 14, 2023
Podchat Summary

Disney's Gambling Partnership and the Future of ESPN

In a surprising move, Disney has recently entered into a gambling partnership with Penn Entertainment, a deal that will bring in a whopping $1.5 billion over the next decade, along with $500 million in stock. However, this partnership comes with some consequences for ESPN, as it will have to sever its relationships with DraftKings and FanDuel, the two leaders in the sports gambling space.

This development puts ESPN in a difficult position, especially considering its declining subscriber base, which has seen a loss of about 30 million subscribers in the past decade. Additionally, the network is facing expensive sports rights deals, adding to the challenges it already faces.

With the future of ESPN uncertain, there are various opinions on what Disney should do with the network. Some suggest spinning it off as a separate entity, while others propose selling it to tech giants like Apple or Amazon. Another option being considered is finding a minority investor to help steer ESPN in a new direction.

Disney CEO Bob Iger seems open to the idea of selling a minority stake in ESPN, but he is specifically looking for strategic partners rather than purely financial ones. The market is eager to see a change with ESPN, and Iger understands the need for growth or at least the illusion of potential growth.

Each option for ESPN's future comes with its own set of pros and cons. Spinning it off could provide the network with more independence, but it may also face challenges in finding its footing in the ever-evolving media landscape. Selling it outright could bring in a significant sum of money, but it would mean completely severing ties with a network that has been a part of Disney for years. Finding a strategic partner, such as a media company or a tech giant, might be the best solution, as it could provide the necessary resources and expertise to revitalize ESPN.

As Disney navigates this new gambling partnership and weighs its options for ESPN's future, the industry eagerly awaits the next move. Will ESPN find a new home with a strategic partner, or will it take a different path altogether? Only time will tell.

Original Show Notes
Matt is joined by Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw to discuss ESPN's foray into gambling after it struck a deal with PENN Entertainment to create ESPN Bet, why Bob Iger and Disney decided to make this move now, and how this affects ESPN's value proposition in the wake of Bob Iger’s comments that he is interested in a strategic partner with the worldwide leader. Matt and Lucas discuss whether selling ESPN outright is still on the table for Disney, as well as potential buyers, partners, and more. For a 20 percent discount on Matt’s Hollywood insider newsletter, ‘What I’m Hearing ...,’ click here. Email us your thoughts! thetown@spotify.com Host: Matt Belloni Guest: Lucas Shaw Producer: Craig Horlbeck and Jessie Lopez Theme Song: Devon Renaldo Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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