Disney has quietly held initial talks to sell its ABC network to local television station owner Nexstar Media, as the Bob Iger-led company looks to sell the property, The Post has learned.
The entertainment giant, whose shares are trading at their lowest level in nine years, has said it wants to exit the traditional television business by ditching ABC and its subsidiaries.
A knowledgeable source said it wasn’t just Nexstar that had spoken to the Mouse House.
“Everyone is talking to Disney,” the source said, noting that it is “way too early” for a deal.
“Every investment bank and private equity firm is in contact with Disney.”
Nexstar and Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The deal chatter with Nexstar, first reported by Bloomberg News, sent Disney shares up 1% on Thursday. Nexstar shares rose nearly 6%.
The source said Disney is unlikely to be in advanced discussions, noting that the Mouse House wants to “kick the tires” to get the best price before moving forward with Nexstar.
“I’m sure Nexstar will put a lot of pressure on assets,” the source said.
Disney’s ABC consists of a national television network – with shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Bachelorette” – and eight regional networks. In addition, there are partnership agreements with approximately 240 local television stations that reach almost all television households in the USA.
Nexstar has 200 owned or affiliated stations in 116 markets, reaching over two-thirds of the U.S. population, as well as national television networks such as the CW and NewsNation. The market value is $5.25 billion.
A deal would likely pose some regulatory hurdles for Disney, the source added.
“The last thing Iger needs is a deal that is blocked,” the person said, pointing out that the Federal Communications Commission blocked Standard General’s deal to acquire media giant Tegna due to regulatory hurdles.
Iger said in July that the company might sell some of its traditional TV assets, which have struggled for years due to the rise of streaming services.
The CEO walked back those comments days later, reassuring senior executives of the company’s TV group that the company was “committed to the value of the company and also to ABC News,” a source told The Post at the time.
Nonetheless, sources say Disney is in the process of reviewing its portfolio and determining whether any of its other television networks could be spun off and sold along with ABC.
For example, ABC could be sold along with the Disney Network and FX, which would not only bring a high sales price but also provide a more attractive package for buyers looking to put together TV properties.
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner agreed to buy Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion in 1995.
With post wires