A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN/AFP
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ESPN was once considered the crown jewel of Walt Disney Co., the gem in a TV lineup that generated more than 70 percent of the company's annual operating profit. Now the sports network is headed for a second straight year of falling profit, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Steven Cahall, and has almost single-handedly delivered the worst annual result for Disney's stock in five years. Cahall, cable billionaire John Malone and others are suggesting Disney consider divesting ESPN.Those pressures drove Time Warner Inc. into the arms of AT&T Inc. for more than $85 billion and explain why Disney Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger is looking for technology acquisitions and new ways to deliver ESPN to the public.Not everyone thinks Disney needs to do a big deal – or needs to tie up with a major content distributor.Disney also owns 30 percent of Hulu, the streaming service that's poised to introduce an online package of cable networks.Next year, Disney will launch a subscription-based online version of ESPN, with content not available on TV.
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