Disney’s Motivation to Potentially Sell ABC and its Affiliates
Usually, when a person or company sells something, the primary motivation is to maximize profits. However, Disney’s motivation to potentially sell ABC and its owned affiliates, linear cable networks, and a minority stake in ESPN is not solely about the financial gain. It is about signaling to investors that Disney is moving away from being perceived as “old media.”
Lowering Leverage Ratio and Addressing Streaming Losses
Disney currently has a market capitalization of around $156 billion and a debt of about $45 billion. Selling these assets can help Disney reduce its leverage ratio and offset the losses it is experiencing from its streaming businesses.
However, the main reason behind Disney CEO Bob Iger’s contemplation of selling media assets is to send a message to the investment community. By selling ABC and linear cable networks, Disney wants to make it clear that the era of traditional TV is over and that the company is ready for its next chapter.
The Value of Broadcast and Cable Networks
The value of broadcast and cable networks has significantly declined in recent years as millions of Americans have canceled their cable subscriptions. Analysts estimate the value of ABC and Disney’s eight owned affiliate networks to be around $4.5 billion, a significant drop from the $19 billion Disney paid for Capital Cities/ABC in 1995.
ESPN, which currently has a valuation of about $30 billion, is considered a valuable asset for Disney. However, some analysts view it as a “melting iceberg” and value it closer to $20 billion. Despite this, Disney intends to retain a majority stake in ESPN.
The Decision to Sell ABC
Selling ABC would be a bold move by Disney, indicating that the company sees no future in the broadcast cable world of content distribution. However, it may also pose challenges for ESPN, as the two entities currently split sports rights. Selling ABC could trigger change-of-control provisions that require existing deals with pay TV operators or leagues to be renegotiated.
Additionally, without ownership of ABC, ESPN’s ability to secure future sports rights deals may be hindered. Leagues may choose to sell rights to other companies, further weakening ESPN’s position.
The Way Forward for Disney
Despite the potential challenges, Disney has the opportunity to become a leader in pushing the industry forward. By divesting declining assets and focusing on its streaming and sports businesses, Disney aims to show investors that it is serious about adapting to the changing media landscape.
Analysts view Disney’s potential actions as a positive move that could make the company more catalyst-rich and position it for future success.