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Analyst Says Disney Is ‘Uniquely Positioned’ to Move Sports Into the Streaming World

Stephanie Sengwe

The sports bundle has been a point of contention within the streaming industry. With services such as Dish, YouTube TV and fuboTV constantly clashing with companies such as Sinclair over Fox RSNs, it seems disputes will always come up whenever it’s time to revamp carriage agreements.

According to Morgan Stanley analyst Ben Swinburne, however, one company that should be exempt from this hubbub is Disney, as they are “uniquely positioned” to move live sports into the streaming space thanks to their ownership of ABC, ESPN, their success with Disney+ and control of Hulu.

“Disney’s scale and ability to vertically integrate in general entertainment has positioned it as a long-term winner in streaming,” Swinburne wrote in a note to clients. “Using ESPN’s still significant scale to better align sports fans with sports content is a logical next step.”

If Disney were to make the move, the issue of ESPN’s declining subscriber numbers would potentially be curbed. According to Deadline, Swinburne believes ESPN’s “operating income will decline 10 percent to 15 percent a year through 2024,” leaving the option to unbundle the network potentially profitable.

An “all-Disney bundle” — that combines Hulu, Disney+ and the full ESPN — would be the best solution, according to Swinburne. However, that doesn’t mean the company won’t need to restrategize their offerings again.

“It gets more challenging over time,” Swinburne stated. “Sports distribution offers challenges that do not exist in general entertainment. In contrast to Disney+ and Hulu, Disney cannot vertically integrate in sports, nor can it scale its business over a global footprint.”

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