Disney looks at exiting ESPN UK

Disney has confirmed that it is looking at pulling out of its UK-based sport channel ESPN.



The media giant is already on the record as considering exiting a number of international markets as a result of the growing costs of acquiring live sporting rights and on an analyst call yesterday, CFO James Rasulo said that it is specifically looking at an exit from the UK service.

ESPN recently lost rights to the UK Premier League and it is understood that Disney’s plans to pull back only refer to the core ESPN channel, not its other two offerings in the UK, ESPN Classic and ESPN America.

“We were experiencing losses due to the ramp up and newness of that business for us,” Rasulo said on an analyst call following Disney’s first-quarter results. “And at this point we are exploring and exit from that.”

ESPN UK issued a statement in the wake of Rasulo’s comments: “We have been saying for some time that we are exploring a range of potential options for our business.  We are not going to discuss specifics.”

The news about ESPN in the UK follows Disney selling out of ESPN Star Sports and earlier comments from chairman and chief executive Bob Iger about the future of ESPN outside the US.

On an earlier analyst call he said. “ESPN’s international business has never been particularly large, nor has it been a huge priority for the company.” He added: “The opportunities for ESPN internationally, I think, are somewhat limited. Not to say that they don’t exist, but it’s never going to be a big part of ESPN’s business.”