Reuters reports that Walt Disney’s ESPN sports network could secure an enterprise value of US$24 billion and attract investment interest from sports leagues, tech firms like Apple and telecom majors including Verizon, according to Bank of America (BofA) Global Research.
In a bid to lure an outside investor, the media giant last month disclosed the financials of ESPN that revealed declining sales and profit at the network considered to be the crown jewel of its traditional TV business.
CEO Bob Iger has said Disney wants to keep ESPN and will try to create a streaming app for it by either forming a joint venture or finding a buyer for a minority stake in the network. This means a 36% interest in ESPN would be up for sale, assuming Disney intends to retain a 51% majority interest and accounting for media company Hearst’s 20% stake, BofA analysts led by Jessica Reif Ehrlich wrote in a note published Wednesday, notes Reuters.
In August Webush analyst Dan Ives said on CNBC’s “Last Call” show that he thinks the sports channel ESPN is the “perfect fit” for Apple TV+, and predicts Apple will acquire the station in the next six to nine months.
ESPN is currently owned by The Walt Disney Company. However, there have been rumors that Disney may sell some of its TV assets as it struggles with cord cutting. This included selling part of ESPN to a partner. Disney is also purportedly in talks with the NFL, NBA, and MLB to have them take joint ownership of ESPN along with Disney.
Such content could be a boost for Apple’s streaming service. Apple TV+ has about 50 million subscribers today, Ives estimates. The tech company has never divulged numbers for the nearly 4-year-old service.
“The massive appetite for live sports content remains the laser focus for Cupertino now to boost its streaming future and further tap into its massive installed base of 2 billion iOS devices worldwide,” Ives wrote. “We believe the answer and the shoe that fits for Apple is the golden ESPN assets which potentially may be on the table in one form or another as [Disney CEO Bob] Iger and the Board strategically and carefully look at Disney’s core assets over the coming months.”