Disney’s new vision for ESPN could include partial ownership of the NBA, NFL

Disney wants to move ESPN from linear TV to streaming — and the NBA and NFL could be partners that help the company. According to CNBCDisney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro negotiated with both leagues as minority investors in the sports network.

In an interview with CNBC last week, Iger mentioned selling Disney’s linear TV assets, such as ABC, but noted that the sports content on ESPN is still “very, very high” with its ability to reach millions of people. However, when asked about bringing ESPN to streaming, Iger noted that they have “strategic partners” to help complete that transition from cable.

“We’re going to be open-minded in looking for strategic partners.”

“We’re going to be open-minded about looking for strategic partners that can help us with distribution or content,” Iger said. “I’m not going to go into detail about it, but we’re generally positive about sports as a media asset.”

CNBC points out that if the sports leagues decide to take a stake in ESPN, it could ruffle the feathers of some of Disney’s rivals, such as NBCUniversal and Fox, because it will work more closely with ESPN than other networks. That could mean less money for the NFL and NBA, which often strike lucrative deals with multiple media partners during the season.

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