Troubled Disney on broadcast, cable consolidation path

It came from the top. Michael Eisner, fighting for survival as chairman of the Walt Disney Co., says his company plans to restructure its broadcast and cable operations—with cable services elevated to Disney’s dominant corporate brands.

In remarks last week at the Goldman Sachs & Co. Communacopia XI Conference in New York, Eisner offered some specifics: Soapnet and ABC Daytime will consolidate operations, as will ABC primetime and ABC Family. ESPN will operate ABC Sports. And, yes, Eisner said he would be “thrilled” if a merger occurs between CNN and ABC News.

Eisner confirmed Disney is negotiating with AOL Time Warner about a merger of the two news organizations, saying such a move would be in line with his company’s “new horizontal strategy.”

Deals, Eisner suggested, could also be made to buy ABC Radio and the company’s two sports franchises, the Angels baseball team and the Mighty Ducks of the National Hockey League. Both teams are based in Anaheim, California.

Eisner is under intense pressure from Disney’s stockholders to turn around the struggling company. Critical to a quick turnaround—and perhaps Eisner’s survival as chairman—is the performance this television season of the ABC Television Network.

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