Last week Disney CEO, Bob Iger mentioned he was looking at partner for ESPN, and called the current business model of FX & ABC “Broken”.
This started a bunch media noise about a sale of all three assets: ESPN, FX and ABC.
But most likely will be the folding of FX and ABC into ESPN leading to massive job cuts, and the end of certain non-sports related shows such as Jimmy Kimmel.
But on Friday Major rumor that Disney contacted NBA about stake in ESPN:
Given the NBA rights talks are going on now it only make sense that the main league in taking a stake in the new ESPN legal entity is the NBA.
If the stake is greater than 20%,then I expect (at least) 13 year Rights agreement with National Exclusivity , NBA League Pass available through ESPN+ subscription ( additional cost on top of ESPN+ cost) with multiple stipulations for the NBA.
While the NBA would triple their money vs current deals with ESPN & TNT, the multiple stipulations would reduce future increases until 2060’s:
*The right of an Automatic 7 season renewal at the decade mark of the (at least) 13 season deal, with the money increase being tied to compound CPI (basically Inflation minus Food & Energy) .
- For the following contract round (round after the Auto-renew) , arbitration will be final should the new ESPN Legal entity and the NBA fail to reach new agreement on their own. This means unless new ESPN Legal entity decides it doesn’t want the NBA anymore, the NBA can’t take bids for American TV Rights from competitors.
So why would the NBA do it?
*Mega rights increase,
- TV partner they know that will promote the game of basketball.
*Big pot of unknown gold called their stake in the new ESPN Legal entity( ESPN, ESPN Steaming, ESPN International, ABC and FX).
For Disney the upside is:
- Gets ALL THE NBA National Games
- Limit future NBA Rights fee increases
- Cuts most Scripted non-(focused) streaming & non-sport programming from ABC & FX, which also cuts a bunch of jobs.
*Creates negotiating power against the merge WWE-UFC regarding UFC rights round (no longer would be a “must have” for ESPN), as well other less “powerhouse” leagues ( example of this action is the XFL is unlikely to get renewed once current arrangement expires in 2025).
- Creates a “halo” around basketball.
*Can sell “add-services” to Basketball fans.
*Gives Disney new way to raise cash, and a future potential exit from the new ESPN Legal entity through an ESPN IPO.
Now this bring the question of what WBD would do in the case of losing the NBA, especially since TNT’s monthly carriage fees are dependent on sports programming.
For one, taking all of March Madness rights will be a priority instead of the current split between Turner Networks(WBD) and CBS which is owned by the financially struggling Paramount.
Outside of March Madness, other use of WBD’s former NBA budget would be sign WWE RAW for Monday on TNT, WWE SmackDown for Friday on TNT, and NXT for Tuesday on TBS.
Future WrestleMania’s starting with 41 would take place either Mid-to-Late April to accommodate March Madness preemptions.
Good news WBD has the namesake Discovery Channel which is as strong & easy to access as the USA Network.
So outside of March+1st week of April, WWE would provide strong week-to-week program that would keep TNT annual rating averages very strong.
Another reason for WWE on (mostly) TNT would be relationships that Endeavor has with Discovery management.
Ari Emanuel, the incoming CEO of WWE through the merger with UFC has been one the main defenders of Zaslav (CEO of WBD) in Hollywood, and has friendship with Zaslav.
Even got PowerSlap on TBS.
Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel sees Zaslav as a welcome new force in Hollywood. “He’s incredibly present,” Emanuel tells Variety . “He’s there every day. He’s working there; he’s meeting people and asking the right questions. That hasn’t happened for a while"
As Discovery veterans note, it can be a jarring juxtaposition for a man who garnered a reputation for grinding reality show budgets. “But if it’s something he wants, money’s no object,” says one of those vets, who rattles off examples of what some have dubbed “DZ specials.” Among them: his insistence that Discovery invest in Dana White’s Power Slap league at the urging of Ari Emanuel and Craig Piligian. “Nobody wanted it — and, by the way, we knew we were going to get grief for canceling shows in order to put on people slapping each other, but David wanted it, so we did it,” says a former Zaslav exec
So to wrap up, the days of “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Desperate Housewives”, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and others styles of entertainment programming are over. The key decision the NBA makes will create an entire chain of changes that can put both WWE and AEW on totally different paths from today.
But never count out what a “talk” in Beverly Hills ( Endeavor Headquarters) among friends can lead to … “PowerSlap” and next "Powerdump "of AEW.