Walt Disney Co. has won approval from US authorities for its planned US$71.3 billion acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox’s entertainment assets on condition that it sells Fox’s 22 regional sports networks, Reuters reports.
The announcement Wednesday by the US Department of Justice gives Disney an edge over Comcast’s competing bid for the Fox assets, the report noted.
The Fox movie franchises and TV shows have been the subject of a bidding war between Disney and Comcast, whose offer currently stands at about US$65 billion.
The Fox assets that are being sold include a cable group that includes FX Networks, National Geographic and 300-plus international channels plus Fox’s stake in Hulu.
The deal does not include the nationally broadcast Fox News, Fox Business or Fox Sports networks.
Disney, which owns sports network ESPN among various media and entertainment assets, has agreed to divest all of Fox’s regional sports networks, which provide sports programing for regional and local markets.
The Justice Department said that without the divestitures, “the proposed acquisition would eliminate the substantial head-to-head competition that currently exists between Disney and Fox and would likely result in higher prices for cable sports programing.”
Disney’s agreement with the government could be a setback for Comcast, which has yet to respond to Disney’s latest offer for Fox, unveiled last week, Reuters noted.
Disney said it is “pleased” with the agreement reached with the Justice Department and said it looks forward to creating “even more compelling consumer experiences.”
Analysts have antitrust concerns about Comcast’s competing bid, which would add Fox’s movie and TV studios to Comcast’s NBC Universal.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has said that his firm was willing to offer the same conditions as Disney, and promised to fight for the deal in court if necessary.
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