Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Bob Iger squashed any hopes for a standalone ESPN over the top product for the near-term, but left the door wide open for going directly to consumers with a wide array of the media giant's content in the future.
Disney’s ESPN and other networks already are part of Dish Network’s Sling TV over the top product and Iger said the media behemoth believes targeting broadband –only consumers with that offering is a worthy attempt to get younger consumers who may not have been so inclined to sign up for pay TV. And while going over the top with other Disney content is on the media giant’s mind, Iger said it won’t happen soon.
“There is definitely an opportunity not just for ESPN but for other Disney brands to ultimately put a product in the marketplace that reach consumers directly,” Iger said. “We think we have that opportunity with a Disney-branded service; we may have an opportunity to bring out a Marvel-type product and possibly Star Wars. But we also are mindful of the value of the expanded basic bundle to this company, and we do not believe that there is any reason for us to attempt to take out some of this product, particularly ESPN, quickly or right now. In other words, there’s time.
“If we see that market dynamics are changing in such a way that it’s better for us as a company to take the product out directly and to not only improve our margins by taking out the middle man but to create a closer relationship with the consumer that could be mined for revenue- generating purposes, then we’ll do that,” he continued. “But we think that if we were to do that now, it would be somewhat precipitous of us and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to be that way.”
Disney's stock was up nearly 4% ($3.88 per share) to $97.75 each in after-hours trading Tuesday.