Disney boss has pushed back against calls to sell up or spin off its sports arm, ESPN.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Bob Chapek has resisted activist investor Dan Loeb’s ambitions to reduce Disney’s debtload by offloading the sports network.
“If everyone wants to come in and buy it . . . I think that says something about its potential,” Chapek said. “I think its potential is within the Disney company.”
The top exec said he was confident in Disney’s ability to restore growth at ESPN, a service best known for showing US live sports like National Football League and Major League Baseball.
Loeb’s Third Point hedge fund bought a $1bn stake in the media giant in August, putting increasing pressure on Disney’s ongoing strategy.
Chapek told the FT that he has “regular conversations” with the Loeb, which he said were “very collaborative, non-antagonistic and collegial”.
Separately, the Disney boss set himself apart from rival firm Netflix, which has had a bumpy few months, with subscriber numbers dwindling and its share price slumping.
“For a long time we benefited from being just like Netflix because we were a streaming company,” Chapek said. “It’s not unexpected that we would get painted with the same brush [but] we’re not the same company.”
Disney+ notably dodged wider industry concerns last month, adding 14.4m subscribers in the latest quarter and beating Netflix by counting 221m paid streaming users globally.
However, both Disney+ and Netflix are set to introduce ad-supported versions of their streaming services, offering a budget version for consumers.
City A.M. reported last week that Netflix is looking to bring forward the launch of its cheaper tier to November compared to the planned 2023 launch.
This new offering will apply in the US, France, Germany, Australia and Canada, and is understood to be priced between US$7 and $9: a notable dip from the current cost of US$9.99 or $15.49.