Disney and Verizon Are Discussing A Possible ESPN Deal
After weeks of openly talking about their desire to find a strategic partner to help bring ESPN into the streaming era, it seems as if Disney has finally found the perfect match.
According to sports analyst Mark J. Burns, Verizon is in talks with Disney about partnering on a new ESPN streaming service.
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg has openly expressed his enthusiasm about the prospective partnership and has even shared his interest with key figures in various sports leagues.
Disney Is Looking For Partners
A deal with Verizon would be exactly the kind of partnership that both ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro and Disney CEO Bob Iger have publicly stated they were looking for.
Iger has been open about the fact that Disney is looking for a minority partner to help guide the network from a cable to a streaming-first company.
With that being said, the Disney CEO has stated time and again, that he believes ESPN is core to Disney’s brand and has frequently balked at the notion that the company could look to divest itself from the network.
“Linear and addressable is up 10% versus the prior year…which speaks to the fact sports business stands tall and remains a good value proposition. We believe in the power of sports and the unique ability to convene and engage audiences,” he said.
What Disney Is Looking For
As rumors swirled that Disney was in talks with various professional sports leagues about a potential deal, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro laid out what the company was looking for in a partner.
“We are going to be making our flagship channels available direct to consumer. And yes as a part of that we are interested in partners. Partners that we think can make the flagship product more compelling,” Pitaro said. “And so we’re looking at things like distribution, technology, marketing, and content and yeah, Bob and I have had conversations, we’ve been having conversations. It’s early but we’ve both been very pleased by what I’ll call a healthy level of interest in ESPN.”
In Verizon, Disney may have found the perfect partner for ESPN. The telecommunications giant has both the infrastructure and expertise that could aid Disney in its ESPN transition.
Additionally, the two companies have shown that they work well together in recent years.
In 2018, Disney and Verizon successfully negotiated a new distribution agreement that avoided any future blackouts of Disney-owned channels.
Then, in 2020, Verizon began to offer select unlimited wireless customers the entire Disney streaming bundle at no cost. This gave users access to Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+.
While the deal has yet to be consummated, a partnership between Disney and Verison seems like a perfect fit. In ESPN, Verison will add a marquee name to its sports streaming services. Meanwhile, Disney will get a partner well-versed in streaming, and one with both the technological and financial capabilities to help guide the network into the future.
As always, continue to check back in with MickeyBlog. We will update you on all the news surrounding the future of ESPN.
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