• July 22, 2024

Is Disney About To Have A Fire Sale Of Its Biggest Assets…

 Is Disney About To Have A Fire Sale Of Its Biggest Assets…

What’s next in Disney’s everything-must-go-on-sale atmosphere?

According to rumors, the House of Mouse is trying to sell its owned-and-operated local ABC stations in eight locations — and if they do, the possible buyer sees “little friction” if they put them up for sale.

“We think there could be some opportunities depending on how things fall out,” said Tom Carter, a longtime executive with broadcast giant Nextstar who now serves as a senior adviser to the CEO and on the board of directors, according to industry publication Deadline.

“Disney had talked about it this way: ‘Let’s morph into a GrowthCo and a SustainableCo,’” Carter said when he was asked about the potential of Disney to sell off the stations at an investor conference in New York, the publication reported Wednesday.

“Disney CEO Bob Iger spurred talk of a potential sale of the eight stations over the summer when he said some of the company’s linear TV holdings ‘may not be core’ to the company in the future,” Deadline reported. (“Linear TV” is industry lingo for old-fashioned TV delivered via broadcast, cable and satellite.)

“Private equity firms are among those putting out feelers, given their sizable investments in local TV in recent years. Nexstar is a poster child for growth through [mergers and acquisitions], with Carter estimating that the company pulled off about 40 acquisitions in his first 10 years at the company. Multi-billion-dollar deals for Media General and Tribune Media vaulted what had been a boutique Texas firm two decades ago to the No. 1 spot among all U.S. station owners, and last fall it showed its appetite again by taking a majority stake in The CW.”

“The only issue is, the SustainCo is funding the GrowthCo, and if you sell one, you’ve lost access to that cash flow. Granted, you’re going to have proceeds, but is that really what you want to do?” Carter said.

As you might expect from the context, “SustainCo” refers to a corporation having a portfolio of assets that have limited upside but offer a consistent source of revenue. “GrowthCo,” on the other hand, involves riskier assets with higher returns — streaming is a prime example, as Disney has leaned heavily into its Disney+ offerings (with extremely mixed outcomes).

Carter, on the other hand, stated that if Disney wanted to fund development by selling off long-term, if not appreciating, assets, Nextstar would jump at the chance.

“I think you’ll see us take a look at it,” Carter said, noting the “massive” windfall the company had seen from previous deals.

There would, however, be issues. The Federal Communications Commission has set a maximum of 39 percent station ownership by one corporation, which Nextstar has reached.

“But that would not preclude us from buying stations,” he said.

“ABC’s portfolio of stations is modest. It’s only eight, largely in the top 10 markets. We’re in eight of the top 10 markets already with a CW station. We could buy a second station in that market and not increase our household footprint. There may be a few stations that would require divestiture of either a Nexstar station or an ABC station, but we could onboard those with relatively little friction.”

Then there’s the issue of what programming would involve.

“You’re seeing ESPN simulcast a large portion of their sports telecasts on ABC. If you were to buy the ABC complex, how would that work going forward? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Carter said.

However, the fact that Iger may be looking to sell off iconic owned-and-operated stations like WABC-TV in New York City and KGO-TV in San Francisco demonstrates how difficult the returning CEO’s job has been.

The Wall Street Journal said in February that Iger, who took over for former CEO Bob Chapek after he was sacked in 2022, was planning to reduce 7,000 positions and save $5.5 billion.

“It’s time for another transformation,”Iger said at the time, with the Journal reporting Iger “said the changes would reshape the company around creativity, reduce expenses and lead to profits in its streaming business.”

The move followed a string of costly flops for the company’s animation branch, which emphasized the company’s wokeness by thrusting LGBT themes in the faces of parents; “Lightyear” and “Strange World” lost nearly a quarter-billion dollars combined.

Things haven’t gotten much better since. “Elemental” had the lowest opening weekend of any Pixar film in the company’s history, and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” the company’s summer tentpole attraction, similarly underperformed expectations.

In the case of ESPN, another Disney asset, the firm is apparently searching for one or more of the major sports leagues that broadcast on the network to take a financial stake in the network. In terms of streaming, an August report revealed that the firm was employing devious measures.

Like airing Disney+ series on other networks first – to fudge the stats on how much money they were losing on the service.

In addition, attendance at amusement parks was down dramatically during the early summer holidays, raising speculation that another portion of the company’s portfolio was in serious jeopardy.

In the year of the woke backlash, though, Disney has become to entertainment what Bud Light has become to drink. At least the brewers of Bud Light weren’t losing money before that; Disney is another story.

The fire sale at Disney appears to be ongoing. Given the company’s disastrous bets on wokeness and streaming content in recent years, this was a totally anticipated predicament — and still, I can’t help but feel terrible for Mickey’s tears when he has to sell off Pluto. But don’t worry: maybe Nextstar will allow the poor, penurious mouse visit his ol’ pooch every now and then.

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