ABC News staffers were “freaking out” over a fresh round of rumors that Disney will sell the network — even as the parent company called the reports “unfounded.”
Employees were jolted Thursday by reports that Disney has held “exploratory talks” with local TV station giant Nexstar Media Group to sell ABC, according to CNN.
“Everyone is freaking the f–k out,” one ABC News staffer told CNN’s Oliver Darcy about the state of affairs inside the network, which is home to “20/20,” “The View” and “Good Morning America.”
“It’s all anyone at work is talking about,” another employee added.
While fears swirled of what a merger might bring — cost-cutting, a leadership upheaval, or perhaps a change in editorial direction — Disney slammed the report late Thursday.
“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,” a spokesperson said.
Bloomberg News had reported that Nexstar, owner of the CW, NewsNation, and a slew of local TV stations, held preliminary talks with the Mouse House to acquire ABC.
The outlet also reported that aspiring media mogul and Weather Channel boss Byron Allen was ready to offer $10 billion for the property.
Sources told The Post that any deal is far off and that many entities are sniffing around Disney for a crack at ABC.
“Everyone is talking to Disney,” a source close to the situation said, noting it is “way too early” for a deal.
“Every investment bank and private equity firm is keeping in contact with Disney.”
The chatter of a potential sale hit a fever pitch after CEO Bob Iger revealed this summer that he was “open-minded and objective” about the future of Disney’s “non-core” linear TV assets. They include broadcast network ABC as well as FX, Disney Channel, Nat Geo, and Freeform, among others.
At the time, Iger also said Disney has had discussions with potential investors about buying a minority stake in sports channel ESPN, though he would not specify.
Days after the comments, Iger went into “damage control mode,” meeting with TV execs at Disney, a well-placed source told The Post.
“Iger met with senior leaders of the television group and reaffirmed his commitment to the value of the business and also ABC News,” the source said, adding that he was doing some “damage control” and “reverting back to the previous talking points.”
During the meeting, Iger fielded questions and told staffers that the content created by the company’s television production teams is “incredibly valuable to our business,” CNN reported.
“I’m ridiculously passionate about news,” Iger said, according to the person familiar with his comments.
“It’s important to this company,” he added, citing the importance of ABC News to Disney. “We need to figure out how it makes the transition into streaming. And I happen to believe we will endure. It’s too good, it’s too important, and it’s really fun.”
Iger’s remarks did little to alleviate fears. CNN said employees acknowledged that a “divorce with Disney seemed inevitable,” following the CEO’s unusually candid remarks this summer.
They expressed frustration over the lack of clarity from higher-ups about the future of the network and lamented having to read it in the press instead of hearing it directly from Iger and other Disney leaders.