The linear Disney TV networks are “not for sale,” CEO Bob Iger said during the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday.
Bob Iger Gives Statement on Potential Sale of Disney TV Networks
During a CNBC Squawk Box interview this summer, Iger agreed with David Faber that ABC and other TV stations “may not be core” to The Walt Disney Company. Faber speculated about a possible sale and Iger said, “We have to be open-minded and objective about the future of those businesses.” The comments led many to believe that Iger was actively hoping to sell the linear TV networks.
In an official statement in September, Disney stated, “While we are open to considering a variety of strategic options for our linear businesses, at this time The Walt Disney Company has made no decision with respect to the divestiture of ABC or any other property and any report to that effect is unfounded.”
Still, reports persisted, and Byron Allen offered $10 billion to buy ABC, ESPN, National Geographic, and more.
Iger said at Wednesday’s conference that his comments in July weren’t meant to put the networks on sale and that media coverage conveyed a more extreme version of Disney’s strategic plans.
Iger said, “The business model that those linear channels rested on and have succeeded on top of for decades” has been a strategic challenge since he rejoined Disney last November. (via Deadline)
“Sometimes, when I am looking for a reaction to my own thought process, I like to test that process in public, particularly in ways that I might be able to get a reaction from the investment community,” he said. “So, my thought was at the time that I would essentially be public with that thought process.”
Stating he was open-minded to a sale “was a means of my saying to Wall Street or the investment community that our heads were not in the sand about the challenges those businesses were having. I did not want to get accused of being kind of an old media executive. Our company had already shown the ability to basically adapt to new circumstances. So, one, I wanted to convey that, and two, see what the reaction would be. I did not say they were for sale. The coverage of what I said said they were for sale.”
“Like all of our assets, we are constantly evaluating, ‘What is their value to the company today?'” he added. “‘What could their value be tomorrow? Is it a growth business?’”
In response to a question from moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin, Iger said an internal evaluation of linear TV “has been unbelievably rigorous at the company and involves a number of executives who are managing those businesses We’ve determined a few things. One, that they can be run more efficiently, with some difficult choices. Second, they can be run in partnership with [streaming]. They’re a means of aggregating audience and amortizing costs, of basically reaching more and different people. Through this process of being more public about what might happen or what could happen and really rolling up sleeves to see, ‘Is this something we should do? Should they be divested? Should they be kept? If they are kept, how should they be run?’ They’re being run more efficiently today than in July, when I made those comments.”