Disney could shortly market its TV ownership as Iger stated business

July 14, 2023: Disney CEO Bob Iger unlocked the door to selling the company’s linear TV support as the business works during the media industry’s transition to streaming and digital offerings.

On Thursday, Iger appeared the morning after the company announced it would open his contract by two years through 2026. He returned to the helm of the company in November after Disney’s board ousted Bob Chapek with a two-year warranty through 2024 and plans to find a next successor.

“After coming back, I discovered the business is facing a lot of challenges, a few of them self-inflicted,” Iger told David Faber at Allen & Co.’s annual conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, noting he’s achieved a lot of work in seven months but there’s more to be done.

At the top of the list is assessing the traditional TV business, Iger said on Thursday. Disney holds a portfolio of TV networks, from broadcast station ABC to cable TV channels such as ESPN.

Disney will be “exhaustive” thinking about the traditional TV business, leaving the door receptive to a possible sale of the networks. “They may not be core to Disney,” Iger said, adding that the creativity from those networks has been important for Disney.

The cable TV channel ESPN is in a different bucket, however. On that front, Iger said Disney is open to finding a strategic partner, which could be a joint venture or offloading an ownership stake.

Iger said when he carried left the company, he had predicted the future of traditional TV and had been “very pessimistic,” and has found since his return that he was right in his thinking, adding it’s worse than he expected.

When Iger last spoke with Faber in February, soon after announcing a major restructuring at the company, he said he felt “a sense of obligation” to return to Disney and preferred to stay for his two-year contract.

“We’ve gotten a lot done very quickly, significant cost reductions and significant realignment of the business,” Iger said. “But dealing head-on with some of our biggest challenges.”

The appearance in February came following Disney’s announced a sweeping restructuring that included thousands of layoffs and billions of dollars cut in spending.

The reorganization warded off a potential proxy fight with activist investor Nelson Peltz.

Disney reorganized into three segments: Disney Entertainment, which includes most of its streaming and media operations; an ESPN division; and a parks, experiences, and product unit.

These were some of Iger’s numerous significant actions in the months after his return. Disney announced it would cut $5.5 billion in costs, consisting of $3 billion from content, excluding sports, and the remaining amount from noncontent prices. The company earmarked 7,000 layoffs.

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