Disney Looks at Selling O&O's


It looks like Mickey Mouse may want to sell his owned and operated stations. 

Walt Disney Co. is looking to hire an investment bank to explore a possible sale of its eight O&O's and it could make Mickey a lot of cheese.  

The NY Post says Disney’s ABC-affiliated stations are in larger markets could be worth billions if sold off.

The stations including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and reach roughly 23 percent of US TV households.

The is not the first time Disney has flirted with selling its broadcast group, and sources cautioned that the media giant is still mulling the idea and may decide against it.

Disney isn’t considering a sale of the ABC network, according to sources.

“They are making it clear, the network is not for sale,” one source said.

Disney CEO Bob Iger is interested in what the broadcast business could fetch now that station valuations are much higher than when the company last explored a sale in 2010.

In July, Tribune paid $2.73 billion for 19 stations owned by Local TV, while Sinclair paid $985 million for seven Allbritton-owned stations. Earlier, Gannett bought Belo and its 20 stations for $1.5 billion.

There has been a wave of consolidation as companies buy up TV stations to reap the rising “retransmission” fees cable companies and other distributors cough up for the right to carry broadcast signals.

The more stations a company owns, the more leverage it has when it enters negotiations with pay-TV providers such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

RBC Capital analyst David Bank said rising retrans dollars are one reason Disney may be loath to part with the stations right now despite soaring valuations.

“The station business is better than it’s been in a decade,” Bank said. “However, stations are probably the least synergistic business to the Disney Brand within the platform.”

Revenue for Disney’s broadcast stations totaled $5.82 billion last year, roughly flat with its $5.84 billion in 2011.

Disney’s ABC stations are in the midst of retrans negotiations with satellite-TV operator Dish. Broadcast rival CBS and its stations recently won retrans rates from Time Warner Cable that approach $2 per subscriber a month.

Stay tuned...