Disney holds preliminary talks with Nexstar on ABC sale -sources

By Dawn Chmielewski

(Reuters) -Walt Disney Co has held exploratory discussions about selling its U.S. TV network ABC to regional TV station operator Nexstar Media Group Inc, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Media entrepreneur Byron Allen has also submitted a $10 billion bid to acquire ABC, local stations and the FX and National Geographic cable channels, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, citing a person familiar with the proposal.

Representatives for Disney and Allen did not respond to requests for comment on the Bloomberg report.

The discussions come after Disney CEO Bob Iger said in July the company could sell some of its traditional TV assets, which have struggled for years due to the rise of streaming services.

Nexstar’s interest is preliminary and may not lead to any deal, one of the sources told Reuters. Both sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential.

A Disney spokesperson said while the company was “open to considering strategic options for its linear business”, it has not made a decision yet on the divestiture of ABC or any other property.

Nexstar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bloomberg News first reported the two companies were in talks about a deal for ABC.

Disney’s ABC comprises a national television network and eight regional stations. It has affiliation agreements with about 240 local television stations reaching almost all U.S. television households.

Nexstar has 200 owned or partner stations in 116 markets, reaching over two-thirds of the U.S. population, as well as national TV networks such as CW and NewsNation. It has a market value of $5.25 billion.

Then Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner agreed to buy Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion in 1995.

(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Akash Sriram and Dimpal Gulwani in Bengaluru; Editing by Josie Kao and William Mallard)