Chatter is continuing however, especially in light of comments by Tom Carter, a former Nexstar exec who is now a senior advisor to the CEO and board of directors. Speaking at a BofA Securities conference in New York on Wednesday, Carter said Nexstar could acquire the ABC stations with “little friction.” He did not say talks were happening and in fact noted that Disney has not clarified what it intends to do with the linear TV assets that CEO Bob Iger has said “may not be core” to the company.
“While we are open to considering a variety of strategic options for our linear businesses, at this time The Walt Disney Company has made no decision with respect to the divestiture of ABC or any other property and any report to that effect is unfounded,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement provided to Deadline.
There has no formal dealbook circulated or formal process initiated in the wake of Iger’s comments, sources have told Deadline. The carriage renewal reached with Charter this week, which saw eight networks jettisoned from Spectrum cable TV systems, indicates the state of linear networks and Disney is apt to ramp up efforts to rearrange those assets in the corporate fold.
Nexstar declined to comment Thursday when contacted by Deadline.
The list of interested suitors for Disney linear holdings includes Allen Media Group, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The company has taken part in a number of M&A deals in recent years, buying the Weather Channel and bidding for BET before Paramount paused the process of seeking minority stakeholders in it.
Iger delivered his remarks about linear assets to CNBC in July during the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, ID.
Given that Nexstar has grown via dozens of M&A deals to become the largest owner of local TV stations in the U.S., acquired control of The CW and has a strong balance sheet, there is a logic to the notion it could be in a position to buy select Disney assets. A person familiar with the company’s thinking said the two companies have had on-and-off discussions over the past three years, though the talks have never heated up to a full negotiation.