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Disney executives downplay effect of NBA lockout on ESPN

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This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.

With the National Basketball Assn. lockout dragging on for 134 days, Walt Disney Co. Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo sought to allay concerns about how the labor dispute might effect the company’s lucrative ESPN cable sports network.

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‘We remain hopeful that there will be a quick resolution to the NBA situation,’ Rasulo told investors Thursday, during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call. ‘However, our broad portfolio of rights will enable us to effectively program ESPN without the NBA.’

Rasulo said that ESPN has ample live programming — including college basketball games — to fill any gap left in the schedule by the absence of NBA games.

‘Since many NBA advertisers want to reach male demos, we’ll expect a good portion of NBA ad dollars will [flow] to other ESPN properties, including college basketball,’ Rasulo said. He added that any loss in advertising revenue ‘would be more than offset by a reduction in rights costs.’

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger emphasized that he would prefer to have the NBA season resume, but added that if the season ultimately gets benched, ‘I do not believe it will affect us to the negative financially.’

[For the Record, 7:15 p.m.: A previous version of this post attributed the quotes by Walt Disney Co. Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo to the company’s Chief Executive Bob Iger. The headline was changed to reflect the comments of both speakers.]

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— Dawn C. Chmielewski


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