What to do with ESPN? That question hangs over Walt Disney Co. as it prepares to report fiscal third-quarter results on Wednesday.
Like a multibillion-dollar albatross, the cable sports network has devolved from cash cow to cord-cutting victim as more people cancel their cable subscriptions and the costs of sports-broadcasting rights rise. Last month, Disney
Chief Executive Robert Iger said ESPN was seeking a strategic partner and was open to selling an equity stake. The network, which is owned by Disney and led by Jimmy Pitaro, has talked to Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. ESPN headlines several near-term headaches for what has recently been a not-so-magic kingdom. Already grappling with writers’ and actors’ strikes that have paralyzed production in Hollywood, Disney has also stumbled through recent high-profile box-office misses — among them “The Little Mermaid” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” — the loss of streaming subscribers over the past two quarters and a steep decline in linear-TV advertising that is roiling the industry. Throw in a political standoff with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and you have a five-alarm corporate fire. “We are increasingly worried about advertising trends. Given viewership trendsremain …