Conflicting Reports Surround the State of ESPN and Disney

Is their relationship about to change?

ESPN logo
A detailed view of the ESPN logo is seen on a microphone in action during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers on January 03, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL.
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Watch enough television and you’ll probably encounter it, if you haven’t already: a commercial featuring Dave Bautista that touts a streaming bundle of Disney +, Hulu and ESPN+. It’s something that makes a relative amount of sense, and if your viewing habits include — to cite my own viewing habits — the Bundesliga, Reservation Dogs and Loki, it feels like a logical thing to spring for. But despite the presence of high-profile athletic facilities at Walt Disney World, ESPN doesn’t necessarily mesh completely with the more narrative-centric elements of its corporate siblings.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it has led to some speculation that ESPN might be changing hands in the not-so-distant future. A report from Owen Poindexter at Front Office Sports suggests that Disney is looking into the possibility of spinning off ESPN.

Details beyond that are relatively scarce, however. Poindexter cited an article at Puck, which stated that private equity companies supported such a movie and that Disney CEO Bob Chapek was looking into it. An unnamed source told Bloomberg, however, that this report was not accurate.

The Front Office Sports article also speculates that ESPN could make more of a move into sports betting if they were no longer under the banner of Disney — and that ESPN’s deals with linear television providers could be an obstacle for their parent company.

In an era of increased media consolidation, it can be surreal to hear about a massive corporation moving in a different direction — though it’s certainly not unheard of. Will this be the case that defies the trend?

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