Disney has quietly held early talks to sell its ABC network to local TV station owner Nexstar Media as the Bob Iger-led company looks to unload the property, The Post has learned.
The entertainment giant, whose stock has traded at nine-year lows, has said it wants to get out of the traditional TV business by ditching ABC and its affiliates.
A source with knowledge said it’s not just Nexstar, who has been talking to the Mouse House.
“Everyone is talking to Disney,” the source said, noting it is “way too early” for a deal.
“Every investment bank and private equity firm is keeping in contact with Disney.”
Nexstar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Disney said, “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 deal chatter with Nexstar, first reported by Bloomberg News, pushed Disney shares up 1% Thursday. Nexstar’s stock jumped nearly 6%.
The talks haven’t involved a specific valuation, according to a source cited by Bloomberg. Former Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner agreed to buy Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion in 1995.
The source said Disney is likely not in advanced talk, noting that the Mouse House would want to “kick the tires” to get the best price before moving forward with Nexstar.
“I’m sure Nexstar will make a huge push for the assets,” the source said.
Disney’s ABC comprises a national television network — with shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Bachelorette” — and eight regional stations. It also has affiliation agreements with about 240 local TV stations reaching almost all US television households.
Nexstar has 200 owned or partner stations in 116 markets reaching over two-thirds of the US population, as well as national TV networks such as CW and NewsNation. It has a market value of $5.25 billion.
A deal would likely raise some regulatory hurdles for Disney, the source added.
“The last thing Iger needs is a deal that gets blocked,” the person said, citing the Federal Communications Commission block of Standard General’s deal to acquire media giant Tegna due to regulatory hurdles.
Iger said in July that the company could sell some of its traditional TV assets that have struggled for years due to the rise of streaming services.
The CEO walked back those comments days later, reassuring senior execs at the company’s TV group of the company’s “commitment to the value of the business and also ABC News,” a source told The Post at the time.
Nonetheless, sources said that Disney is in the process of looking at its portfolio and figuring out if any of its other TV channels could be carved out and sold with ABC.
For example, ABC could be sold with the Disney Network and FX, which would not only bring in a strong sale price, but also provide a more attractive package for buyers who are looking to cobble together TV properties.
With Post wires