ESPN Held Talks With The NBA, NFL, and MLB About Potential Strategic Partnership

A week after Disney CEO Bob Iger talked about the possibility of bringing a strategic partnership to ESPN, it now appears that early discussions have been had to do just that. CNBC is reporting that ESPN has held early discussions with the NBA, NFL, and MLB about a potential strategic partnership.

Disney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN head Jimmy Pitaro held discussions with the organizations about taking on a minority stake in ESPN. This would create a safety net for ESPN, allowing it to receive premium content from one of the organizations potentially.

An NBA spokesperson said about the talks saying, “We have a longstanding relationship with Disney and look forward to continuing the discussions around the future of our partnership.” Spokespeople for ESPN, the NFL and MLB did not comment on the discussions.

The talks with the NFL reportedly center around the NFL’s own desire to have another company to take a stake in its own media assets. The NFL has the NFL Network, NFL.com, and RedZone. Disney and the NBA have had discussions that revolve around the renewal of media rights, sources are saying to CNBC.

“Our position in sports is very unique and we want to stay in that business,” Iger said to CNBC’s David Faber. “We’re going to be open minded about looking for strategic partners that could either help us with distribution or content. I’m not going to get too detailed about it, but we’re bullish about sports as a media property.”

While this could potentially be beneficial for consumers and Disney, there will also be some hurdles to overcome. For one, all three of these organizations make a lot of money from Disney competitors through the sales of media rights. These competitors could also be irritated if ESPN has a one-up on them. There also could be a conflict of interest there as well. Along with this, there could be issues that arise with a built-in bias of ESPN if it is covering an organization it is connected with and not appearing objective in its coverage. All of these things could be overcome, but they could also be hurdles that may or may not be able to be overcome.

A big benefit that could come out of this could be for sports streaming in general as ESPN is pushing towards a business model of being digital-first. This comes in contrast to the current model that generally leads with a linear television first approach.

While these discussions happen, there will be plenty of questions to be addressed and asked. It could change the future of The Walt Disney Company, ESPN, sports leagues, and sports coverage in general, depending on the outcome. Daps Magic will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.

What do you think about the possibility of ESPN going into a strategic partnership with one of these sports leagues? Do you think it is a good idea? If so, which one would you like to see partner with ESPN and Disney? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!