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Disney’s ESPN seeks strategic partners to advance sports streaming

Disney’s ESPN is looking for strategic partners and tie-ups to advance the streaming and televised sports content as reports of declining revenue emerge, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

According to the report, ESPN is planning to make a standalone version of its flagship TV channel as more people are cancelling their subscriptions to multichannel TV services. This may be available in two to three years’ time.

Disney’s CEO Bob Iger also announced that the sports network was open to selling its equity stake. However, many media reports from the United States have stated that Iger still wants to maintain Disney’s majority stake in the sports network. Currently, ABC Inc, an indirect subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, holds 80 per cent stake while the remaining 20 per cent lies with Hearst.

ESPN’s chairman, Jimmy Pitaro added that they have spoken to leagues for potential partnerships, including the National Basketball Association, National Football League, and the National Hockey League.

The sports network is also in the early stages of discussion with major league baseball to stream local baseball after the bankruptcy of one of the largest local sports TV players, Diamond Sports Group.

According to a report by CNBC, Iger has also taken on former executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs as consultants to help “jumpstart” the channel, especially can cable cancellations in the United States have accelerated.

While ESPN has a direct-to-consumer product, ESPN+ which offers lower-rates live games at the cost of $9.99 a month. Iger reportedly told CNBC last month that its “best programming” was still exclusive to cable TV.

Despite this, there does not seem to be any clear plan about how Iger plans to reinvigorate the network. A report by the New York Times pointed out that ESPN’s costs for this year alone will be $10.8 billion and its future commitments, which could run into the 2030s, total to about $57 billion. Meanwhile, the company has had six rounds of layoffs since 2015 and has cut back on its original programming. Business Standard

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