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The ESPN-Disney empire

By Laurie Bennett

August 27, 2013 at 7:59am

The New York Times has been taking a closer look this week at ESPN, the Disney money machine.

If you haven’t paid close attention to the constant ownership shuffle in the media business, you might not realize that the company that gives you Mickey Mouse and the Disney Channel is behind at least half of televised sports events.

ABC acquired majority control of ESPN in 1984 and Disney acquired Capital Cities/ABC in 1996. Disney partners with Hearst Corporation in both ESPN and A&E Television, owner of A&E, Lifetime and other cable networks.

Under majority control by Disney, ESPN has voraciously snapped up exclusive rights to professional and college sports coverage.

A recent coup - luring FiveThirtyEight blogger Nate Silver from the Times, raised a lot of eyebrows. Another acquisition, serial host-turned-dissatisfied employee Keith Olbermann, was less impressive.

Although ESPN is beginning to see new competitors, such as Fox Sports 1, it is so dominant in sports broadcasting that the Justice Department investigated antitrust complaints several years ago, the Times reports.

The network relies on cable bundling fees, which are under sharp criticism.
Disney is doing its best to fend off new restrictions.

The company spent $3.65 million last year lobbying Washington. Its political contributions totaled almost $1.8 million, according to data tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The map below shows Disney’s outside lobby firms and two of the connected lobbyists at Glover Park Group who represent the company.

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