Disney recently announced new corporate plans for the company. In the structure revealed on Wednesday, ESPN will now be a standalone unit and streaming service for the mammoth media conglomerate. The move will surely fuel talk that Disney would potentially put the sports network up for sale. However, company CEO Bob Iger poured cold water on the suggestion.

CEO claims ESPN is still important piece to the streaming service puzzle

“ESPN is a differentiator for this company. It’s the best sports brand in television. It’s one of the best sports brand in sports. It continues to create real value for us,” proclaimed Iger.

“It is going through some obviously challenging times because of what’s happened in linear programming, but the the brand of ESPN is very healthy and the programming of ESPN is very healthy. We just have to figure out how to monetize it in a continuing, disrupting world. That’s it. But we’re not engaged in any conversations right now or considering a spinoff of ESPN.”

IgEr says shift to stand-alone streaming service ‘inevitable’

While the network may remain under the Disney umbrella, Iger also made interesting remarks about the future of ESPN. The CEO suggested that the sports network will almost certainly become a stand-alone streaming service.

“Regarding ESPN and when we might make the shift, if you’re asking me, is the shift inevitable? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you any sense of when that could be, because we have to do it, obviously, at a time that really makes sense for the bottom line. And we’re just not there yet,” Iger told Variety.

“And that’s not just about how many subscribers we could get, it’s also about what is the pricing power of ESPN, which obviously ties to the menu of sports that that they’ve licensed.”

Reports at the end of 2021 claimed that ESPN’s reach in American homes is down. The sports network is still in 76 million households Stateside, but this is a 24% drop compared to a decade earlier. Disney previously purchased ABC/Capital Cities in 1996, which triggered an 80% stake in the sports network.

ESPN currently holds soccer media rights here in the U.S. for Spain’s LaLiga, Germany’s Bundesliga, the Dutch Eredivisie, England’s Championship, and the FA Cup and League Cup.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire