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A little-known TV conglomerate has emerged as the most likely buyer of Disney’s New York-based commercial broadcast network, ABC: Nexstar Media Group.
According to Bloomberg, Nexstar, based in Irving, Texas, is in talks with Disney to buy the TV network. The transaction is still under wraps, but Nextsar—which has merged and acquired its way to the top of all US local TV companies—certainly has a penchant for acquisitions.
Neither Disney nor Nexstar have made any specific comments about the negotiations. However, Nexstar’s board adviser Tom Carter told investors last week that the company is interested in buying more legacy media assets and that it could take over the ABC network with “relatively little friction.”
“Founded in 1996, Nexstar’s network reaches more than 68% of all US TV households. On its website, Nexstar says that it “owns, operates, programs or provides sales and other services to 200 broadcast stations…in 116 markets.” It operates The CW, a major TV network in which Nextsar took a majority stake last year. It also runs TV channels owned by affiliated companies, such as Mission Broadcasting and Vaughan Media. It also boasts partial or full ownership of NewsNation, Food Network, and the Cooking Channel, as well as the political platform The Hill,” Quartz reported.
It’s not just Nexstar Media Group, either.
Earlier this week, Byron Allen, CEO of Allen Media Group, suggested he’s looking to buy ABC along with FX and National Geographic from Disney, according to BET.com, and has put up a $10 billion offer as he looks to expand his media conglomerate.
The bid comes after Disney announced in recent weeks that the company would seek to get rid of “non-core assets” and focus more on streaming.
Last week, however, the company said in a statement that no final decisions have been made.
“While we are open to considering a variety of strategic options for our linear businesses, at this time The Walt Disney Company has made no decision with respect to the divestiture of ABC or any other property and any report to that effect is unfounded,” the statement said.
Shortly after the July announcement that Disney CEO Bob Iger had extended his tenure for an additional two years, he surprised the media world by revealing several shocking insights during an interview with CNBC.
As the media industry transitions to streaming and digital offerings, Iger opened the door to selling the company’s linear TV assets.
Speaking with David Faber on the network’s “Squawk Box” program, he discussed the “transformative” work he has begun before he hands off the company to a successor, which now, at least, won’t be until sometime in 2026.
“Transformative work is dealing with businesses that are no growth businesses and what to do about them, and particularly the linear business, which we are expansive in our thinking about,” Iger told the host. “And we’re going to look expansively about opportunities there because clearly, it’s a business that is going to continue to struggle.”
Faber stopped Iger at that point to ask if by ‘transformative’ he meant getting rid of legacy networks like ABC and FX: “Are you going to look to sell them?”
“We have to be open-minded and objective about the future of those businesses, yes,” Iger replied.
“Meaning that they’re not core to Disney?” Faber pressed on.
“That they may not be core to Disney,” Iger added. “The distribution model, the business model that forms the underpinning of that business and that is delivered great profits over the years, is broken. And we have to call it like it is.”
He made it clear that his remarks were not directed at ESPN, which, according to him, Disney perceives “very differently.” However, he emphasized that ABC, National Geographic, and other Disney-owned entities might be at risk of being sold off in the near future.
A sell-off of ABC could certainly have a negative effect on some of the network’s legacy programs, including the daytime gabfest “The View,” which is often highly controversial.
Earlier this year, reports noted the ongoing financial challenges faced by Disney, many arising from a string of decisions related to “woke” content and a well-publicized clash with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is currently trailing former President Donald Trump in the GOP polls for the 2024 presidential nomination.
Reports noted in April that Disney had begun planning for lay-offs of as much as 15 percent of its entertainment workforce following an announcement by Iger two months earlier that they were coming.
The CEO unveiled plans to idle 7,000 workers in a “strategic realignment” aimed at cost reduction. The layoffs were expected to impact workers across various divisions, including television, film, theme parks, corporate, and entertainment, Bloomberg News reported at the time.