How big a piece of the Disney kingdom has ESPN grown to be? We've know it was vital to the company in general terms, as a corporate "breadwinner" or "revenue driver", but now Forbes has come up with a credible guesstimate about what the numbers are. They are big, big numbers. The Worldwide Leader is worth nearly half the entire value of Disney:
ESPN is worth $40 billion according to a research report this summer from Wunderlich or barely ten times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $3.9 billion. Disney as a whole is currently worth $84 billion (Hearst owns a 20% stake in ESPN with Disney owning the rest). The CapCities purchase worked out great for Disney, but only because of the growth of ESPN, as the value of ABC has deteriorated dramatically over the past 15 years. Wunderlich figures that the ABC Network is worth $1.7 billion, or just 4% of ESPN's value, and the ABC Station Group another $2.6 billion.
This makes ESPN the most valuable property in one of the most valuable media companies in the world. And it's not hard to know why: ESPN and ESPN2 combined command $5.81 in per-subscriber fees from cable companies, and are available in more than 100 million homes. For comparison, TNT and TBS combined get $1.80, Fox News is 90 cents, and CNN is 60 cents.
And how does the value of Disney/ESPN stack up to other media competition?
The current market value of the New York Times is $1.3 billion. The only media companies in the world worth more than $40 billion are News Corp. ($58 billion) and Comcast ($96 billion). The value of News Corp. is spread out among dozens of media assets, while Comcast derives most of its value from being a cable provider.
What's another way to look at it? The combined worth of every NFL team is $35 billion. Lockheed Martin is worth $29 billion. So, yeah. ESPN's role in the Disney empire is worth more than Lockheed's role in the American empire.