SBD/September 3, 2014/Media

SEC Network's Success Launch Raises Disney's Stock Estimate To $95

Morgan Stanley raised Disney's stock estimate to $95 based on SEC Network's successful launch. In a research report authored by Benjamin Swinburne, Ryan Fiftal and Thomas Yeh, the investment bank says the channel's "strong early penetration lifts our forecast." The bank views ESPN's business as a potential risk. "ESPN's affiliate renewal cycle has largely played out as expected. With the majority of ESPN¹s distribution renewal complete, we see more limited upside for ESPN affiliate rev growth and advertising risk skewed to the downside." Morgan Stanley also cited cord cutting as a potential risk, as well as ESPN's rights deals. "ESPN's programming rights costs may grow more quickly than expected" (John Ourand, Staff Writer).

WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel notes before former Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg "helped the Big Ten launch the Big Ten Network," and before helping the Pac-12 launch the Pac-12 Networks, he "tried to talk his Big 12 constituents into a Big 12 Network." Weiberg "tried to tell them that a conference television channel would produce financial bounty and exposure galore," and he could "never sell it enough to Big 12 schools." Now the Big Ten Network "flourishes, the Pac-12 Network is part of a huge bonanza out West and the SEC Network has launched in the last two weeks with flare and hype that eclipses both." Tramel: "And here in Big 12 territory, we’re keeping a stiff upper lip. Keeping our chin up and our gaze focused, all the while thinking, why didn’t we listen to Weiberg?" The Big 12’s "hits have been steady since Weiberg resigned" from the conference in "frustration seven years ago to help launch the Big Ten Network." Weiberg said, "In order to do a conference network, you have to have a very broad assignment of media rights. In the Big 12, there wasn’t a willingness to participate in the common conference approach. You lose a little bit of the glue that holds a conference together.” He added, “You can make the argument the Big 12 from a pure financial standpoint is doing just fine. But an additional value of those kinds of networks, they cause members to have to kind of throw in to a bigger common approach.” Weiberg: "I don’t know that we ever put it to a formal vote. But it was obvious you couldn’t get there.” Tramel notes conference bylaws "required nine votes," but there were "never more than eight in agreement, and even Kansas, wondering how it would affect its hoops, had serious questions" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/3).
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