ABC might launch 24-hour digital news network

Disney might hold off on any concrete plans until after it has gauged its programming bargaining powers in upcoming negotiations with Altice.

ABC may be considering taking another shot at launching a 24-hour digital news channel, according to the New York Post.

The report says ABC News chief James Goldston is at the forefront of the reported push for an all-day news network. But Disney appears to be holding off on any concrete plans until after it has gauged its programming bargaining powers in upcoming negotiations with Altice.

Altice, which has acquired both Cablevision and Suddenlink, has plans to scale back costs by shrinking its programming budget. Disney is due to discuss carriage renewal with the MSO and the company could use those talks to determine demand for a new news channel.

This is not the first time ABC has tried to launch a 24-hour news channel. ABC News Now, a subscription-based service available through ABC affiliates and mobile platforms like Sprint’s MobiTV, folded in 2009 after five years on the air.

Word of ABC’s plans comes not long after a contentious presidential election helped cable news networks draw record amounts of viewers. CNN alone managed 13.3 million viewers in primetime on election night, which Nielsen said was the most-watched election night coverage in cable news history.

ABC would be going up against several other established 24-hour news networks besides just CNN. Fox News Channel, MSNBC, HLN, CNBC and Bloomberg Television have all carved out niche audiences for themselves.

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But a new news network from ABC/Disney could be a way the media giant is looking to shore up its Media Networks group that has been reeling from the continued subscriber losses at ESPN.

The Media Networks group during the most recent quarter saw its revenue fall 3 percent to $5.7 billion as cable networks revenue dropped 8 percent to $3.96 billion. Operating income for the cable networks segment fell 13 percent to $1.4 billion as ESPN and Disney Channels both underperformed.

Amid that, ESPN’s revenues dropped because of lower advertising and affiliate revenue along with higher programming and production costs, while the Disney Channels’ troubles were attributed a to decrease in affiliate revenue and program sales.

Disney CEO Bob Iger stayed upbeat though, pointing toward the upcoming launch of services like DirecTV Now, which will feature ESPN and other Disney-owned channels, as a means of putting ESPN coverage in front of millennials who are leaving—or skipping altogether—the traditional pay-TV services that helped programmers thrive for so long.