Disney CEO says selling ESPN a la carte is on the table

Robert Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, speaks at the 2014 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Thomson Reuters

Disney CEO Bob Iger says Disney needs to improve on the digital front, and that selling ESPN direct-to-consumer is on table.

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference on Tuesday, Iger said that "rights" were not the issue with selling ESPN directly, but mentioned that price was a sticking point, according to the Orange County Register.

Iger also acknowledged that ESPN's digital experience needed to get better.
As of December, ESPN had lost about 7 million subscribers in the previous two years. That means ESPN left an estimated $1.3 billion in subscriber revenue on the table in 2015, compared with what it would have made with steady cable company growth.

Last month, ESPN president John Skipper admitted his company had been hurt by people ditching cable, and that it was in talks to expand its presence in online streaming services.

Skipper said ESPN was looking to expand to more "online bundles," but did not mention a direct-to-consumer option. At the time, he spoke about talks with Amazon and Dish, which already carries a version of ESPN on Sling TV. Sling TV gives cord cutters a skinny bundle of channels including ESPN for $20 a month.

But Iger's comment suggest Disney and ESPN are looking beyond online bundles like Sling, and toward an a la carte option.

Iger also said that while ESPN will not grow as fast as it historically has, he expects it to be an engine of operating income growth in the future, Broadcasting & Cable reports.

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