Banking giant Wells Fargo has made a 2023 prediction: the Walt Disney Company, which abruptly brought back former CEO Bob Iger to reverse the woke company’s rapid downward spiral late this year, will end its ownership of TV networks ABC and ESPN.
Bank analysts are predicting that some of the “big changes” Iger promised to initiate will include shedding the TV network and the cable sports network, both of which have been losing viewers, Fox Business Network reported.
“Spinning off the two networks is the best path forward and a probable late 2023 event, leaving the Walt Disney Company an attractive pure play intellectual property company,” FBN wrote.
If Iger makes the move, it will not be a big surprise to the industry, because Disney has been contemplating the idea for a while already.
ESPN, in particular, is in a tough spot in planning for the future. As Axios recently noted, ESPN ended 2021 with 76 million cable subscribers, which was down another ten percent from the 84 million it had in 2020. And each year previous to that, the network has lost a similar number of viewers.
One somewhat brighter spot for the sports network is that its ESPN+ grew 42 percent over 2021, FBN added. But it may not be enough to keep it in Disney’s portfolio.
Cable viewership in general is on a downward trajectory, so ESPN’s future is unclear.
In another sign of the times, ABC lost its third-place standing in the ratings last year as cable news network Fox News claimed the third most viewers in primetime, according to a Forbes report.
This is an unheard of success for a cable network considering that the big three TV networks — CBS, NBC, and ABC — were once the unchallenged kings of television broadcasting.
Disney will have to do something to reverse its own tumble, too. It has been reported that the Mouse House lost $123 billion in market share last year alone. The legacy media is facing stiff winds of change and Disney will likely look to shed these backward-looking properties as it faces its own harsh financial realities.