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Disney said to be in preliminary talks over selling ABC to Nexstar

Conglomerate reportedly looking to offload television network to local broadcasting group

Disney is reportedly in preliminary discussions with Nexstar about the potential sale of its ABC television network. The media conglomerate is considering offloading its television assets as it shifts its focus towards streaming services.

Nexstar, a local broadcasting group, owns or partners with 200 local TV stations across the US and also controls the smaller CW Network. While no official valuation has been put forward, industry insiders speculate that ABC and its eight directly owned stations could fetch around US$4 billion.

However, Nexstar's interest in acquiring ABC is contingent on the price being right. Additionally, any potential deal could face regulatory hurdles, as it would give Nexstar, the largest operator of local stations, control over one of the biggest television networks in the US.

Disney acquired ABC and ESPN, a cable sports channel, in 1996. The possible sale of ABC is part of Disney's broader restructuring plan aimed at bolstering its streaming ambitions. Both Disney and Nexstar have yet to make any official statements regarding the potential sale.

ABC has a rich history in sports broadcasting, having pioneered the NFL's Monday Night Football in the 1970s.

Although its sports division was shuttered in 2006, ABC continues to play a key role in Disney's sports strategy. It offers rights holders extensive reach for their flagship events, supplementing the more comprehensive coverage provided by ESPN.

ABC regularly broadcasts matches from the NBA and NHL playoffs, as well as college football games. It also simulcasts several Monday Night Football games throughout the season, particularly in local markets.

The sale of ABC could impact Disney's bargaining power, especially as it gears up for its full direct-to-consumer future. The company is set to enter renewal negotiations with the NBA, a cornerstone property for ESPN, where free-to-air coverage will likely be a major talking point.

If a deal is reached, it will be intriguing to see how Nexstar handles sports broadcasting. The CW, which previously avoided sports, now holds the rights to LIV Golf, ACC college football, and the Nascar Xfinity series. This could potentially pave the way for ABC to regain its status as a major player in sports broadcasting.

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