Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that he has been in discussions with several companies about potentially partnering to provide ESPN directly to consumers as a streaming service.

“As we prepare to take ESPN in a direct-to-consumer direction, we believe we have an opportunity to strengthen our hand,” Iger said on a conference call with analysts on Wednesday to discuss the company’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, before adding, “We feel like we already have an excellent hand.”

The comments are the strongest proof yet that Disney is trying to partner with another large entity to assist the streaming launch of ESPN, which would effectively be the cable channel streamed directly to subscribers. According to several sources, everyone from Apple to Verizon is in talks to participate in this rollout, with ESPN potentially assisting with Verizon phone subscribers or supplementing the Apple TV+ service.

READ MORE: Disney Wants To Sell A Portion Of ESPN, And Apple Is Said To Be A Potential Buyer For The $24 Billion Network

“We’ve engaged with a number of different entities,” Iger explained, adding, “There is significant interest.”

He also didn’t limit it to tech companies, noting that sports leagues might assist generate more content as well.

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Iger has stated on CNBC that he expects to launch a direct-to-consumer ESPN subscription no later than 2025. On the call, he stated that he intends to deploy it in a “soft landing,” where he will provide the service alongside the network as part of the standard cable bundle.

“We’ll see where we end up with the blend,” he went on to say. “I’m not concerned about it.”

ESPN remains one of Disney’s most valuable assets, with an operational profit of $981 million in the fiscal fourth quarter, more than offsetting the majority of the losses from its streaming services. ESPN+, the core channel’s companion streaming service, has 26 million members but only added 800,000 throughout the year.


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