Disney in Talks to Divest Traditional TV Assets

Media tycoon Byron Allen has put forth a proposal of $10 billion to buy Disney’s ABC Network, FX, and National Geographic, as the company aims to focus on its thriving streaming services.

Key Points:

  • Offer includes ABC’s broadcast network, FX, and National Geographic.
  • Disney, while not confirming a sale, has not dismissed the possibility.
  • Speculations arise from statements made by Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, indicating a shift from traditional TV assets.

Understanding Disney’s Strategic Shift

Disney’s strategic move comes after recent Nielsen data highlighted a decline in linear TV viewership to below 50% for the first time in July while streaming saw an increase of 2.9% during the same period. This transformation signifies that traditional TV might no longer be central to Disney’s evolving business strategy. Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, previously commented on CNBC about the shift from linear TV, acknowledging that the current distribution model is “definitely broken.”

Notable Trends:

  • Time spent on streaming reached a record of 38.7% of total TV usage in July.
  • TV advertising growth has shown signs of stagnation while streaming platforms emerge ad-free or with minimal advertising.

Byron Allen: From Stand-up to Media Baron

Byron Allen, while currently known as a formidable media industry figure, embarked on his journey in the entertainment domain as a stand-up comedian. His entry into television production primarily encompassed daytime courtroom shows. His IMDb credits boast 16 writing and directing entries. Over recent years, Allen’s portfolio grew with acquisitions like The Weather Channel and various regional TV stations. His association with attempts to purchase networks like BET and Tegna Inc. also made headlines.

Despite the offer being preliminary, calculations are based on projections that ABC and related brands would generate about $1.25 billion before factoring in interest, taxes, and depreciation. There’s flexibility for offering adjustments based on changing metrics. Bloomberg’s insiders reveal that Allen is liaising with multiple banks and equity firms to finalize the deal.

Potential Challenges:

  • Allen Media LLC’s substantial debt might influence Disney’s decision.
  • Conflicts with other network affiliations, such as CBS and NBC, might require Allen to offload some of his regional stations.

Nexstar Media Group: Another Potential Buyer?

In addition to Allen, reports suggest that Nexstar Media Group is in early talks with Disney regarding the ABC network. Yet, the stages of these discussions remain exploratory. Both companies, when questioned about the negotiations, provided limited insights. Disney’s recent reconciliation with Charter, a prominent cable entity, following a contract rift further complicates the network’s trajectory in traditional television.

Bloomberg, who first broke the story, indicated that despite these revelations, Disney’s commitment to divesting its assets remains unconfirmed.

Industry Insights

Many industry observers believe Disney’s potential sale of its traditional TV assets suggests a grim future for pay TV. Evan Young, an industry analyst, mentions, “A sale of ABC tells us that Disney’s view on pay TV is that it will soon implode.” This perspective is supported by other market insights indicating challenges in TV advertising and a surge in cord-cutting, where consumers are ditching cable TV for streaming services.

Tom Carter, once Nexstar’s COO and now a senior advisor, hinted at the complexities of such acquisitions during the Bank of America’s Media, Communications, and Entertainment Conference. He stressed the intricacies of content sharing across platforms, raising questions about the potential challenges post-acquisition.

Changing Consumer Behavior

The emergence of streaming platforms, coupled with rapidly changing viewer preferences, has transformed how audiences consume content. No longer tied to scheduled programming, consumers now enjoy on-demand content, which caters to their specific preferences and schedules. This convenience, backed by powerful recommendation algorithms, is driving the adoption of streaming platforms at an unprecedented rate.

Shifts Observed:

  • Rise in binge-watching culture.
  • Increased demand for original web series and exclusive content.
  • Consumer preference for ad-free or minimal-ad experiences.


As the media landscape continues to evolve, Disney’s considerations to possibly divest its traditional TV assets reflect the broader industry shift. The outcome of these discussions, whether with Byron Allen or Nexstar Media Group, will undoubtedly shape the future of entertainment and its interplay with technology.

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