The Mouse is throwing his hat in the ring. After a sudden flurry of interest in a potential Twitter sale last week, with Salesforce, Google, Microsoft and Verizon all mentioned as possible suitors, the arena is getting more crowded with reports that yet another media behemoth, Walt Disney Co., may decide to bid for Twitter, too.
According to Bloomberg, which first reported the news, Disney’s interest in the beleaguered microblogging service was spurred by its recent moves to expand its live streaming video capabilities, in particular its deals with sports leagues to live stream major sporting events.
Twitter has struck deals to live stream games with big names like the National Football League, Wimbledon, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Pac-12 Networks. Twitter is also said to be in discussions with Major League Soccer and the Professional Golfers Association, per the New York Times.
Disney has a natural interest in sports video, thanks to its co-ownership of ESPN, the dominant cable sports network, which has however become a cause of growing concern among investors due to fears over “cord cutters.”
On that note, this week brought more evidence that various over-the-top TV technologies, like VOD, SVOD, and DVR, have taken a bite out of the audience for cable networks, including Disney’s. According to MoffettNathanson Research, which analyzed Nielsen data, live viewing of cable networks owned by Disney was down 18% in national gross rating points (GRPs) from the 2010-2011 season to the 2015-2016 season. ESPN in particular has seen audiences for both live and non-live programming decline. The study found a 16% decline in GRPs in live sports events over the last five years.The company’s interests align in other ways as well: as part of its move into live streaming video, WSJ notes that Twitter has tapped a company partly owned by Disney, BAMTech, for technical support (Disney acquired a one-third stake in BAMTech, which was launched by Major League Baseball, for $1 billion in August). Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also serves aboard Disney’s board of directors.