Investors have been urging Disney to sell ESPN for months. Activist Investor Dan Loeb made waves when he sounded the charge encouraging the sale. Later, after learning of Bob Chapek’s plan to incorporate sports betting, he backtracked on his initial opinion. Others however continue to think the Walt Disney Company should sell off the sports channel.
Wells Fargo, a significant Disney investor, has gone a step farther and has predicted Disney will sell off not only ESPN but ABC as well. In a document published last Tuesday, Wells Fargo analyst Steve Cahall outlined the firm’s top predictions for the media business in 2023, which is something many investors and news outlets have done recently. Cahall, however, made bold prediction about the future of ESPN under Bob Iger’s leadership at Disney:
“DIS will begin the spin-off process for ESPN & ABC including launching ESPN in streaming a la carte,” Cahall wrote. “Cost rationalization and balance sheet options are critical to reaching this outcome. The result is a better-off remaining DIS.”
Spinning off ESPN may be believable but ABC seems a bit far fetched. Still, so did Bob Iger’s return as CEO so anything could happen! ABC was one of the first acquisitions ever made by the Walt Disney Company and has proven to be an asset for decades. Time will tell if this prediction comes to fruition but it’s interesting to think of ABC and ESPN post Disney.
Not everyone is on board with this prediction, though. As Jason Bazinet, managing director at Citi Bank frankly put it, “We’re very much against spinning off ESPN… that’s the dumbest thing ever.” He went on to explain that ESPN generates much of Disney’s cash flow which will be needed to offset losses as the streaming wars continue to make streaming services unreliable profit engines. “What Disney is embarking upon with a direct-to-consumer business is very much like a cable company or a telecom company,” Bazinet said, “They should not spin it off.”