Not so fast, Disney: Comcast reviving interest in acquiring Fox
In mid-December, The Walt Disney Company announced it would purchase 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox Film and Television studios, along with cable and international TV businesses, for $52.4 billion. Prior to the deal, Fox had entertained a much higher bid from Comcast in the low $60 billion range but ultimately terminated talks early on due to antitrust concerns. Now, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Comcast is reviving its interest in purchasing the 21st Century Fox assets, feeling confident that they could avoid entanglements that would incur government litigation as in the AT&T/Time Warner deal. Their interest is pending Fox’s release of a proxy statement with details on the Disney merger, which it will file with regulators ahead of a shareholder vote on the deal.
Like Disney, Comcast already controls a major television network (NBC), a motion picture studio (Universal Pictures), several animation studios (Illumination Entertainment, Dreamworks Animation) and a theme park empire (Universal Studios). They also boast the second-largest pay-TV company after AT&T, largest cable TV company and largest home internet service provider in the United States. Their TV conflicts could potentially be settled by leaving regional Fox stations out of the deal.
However, part of the appeal of the Disney deal to the Murdoch family was its ability to make them influential Disney shareholders, with 21st Century Fox Chief Executive James Murdoch (son of Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch) potentially inheriting a high position at Disney if the deal is completed. On the film side, the Disney deal also boasts potential re-integration of Marvel and Star Wars assets, while a Universal deal boasts no such synergy. In 2017, Disney’s Buena Vista held a dominant 21.8% of the movie market share, while Universal Pictures held 13.8% with 20th Century Fox at 12%. Comcast, Disney and Fox all own interests in streaming giant Hulu, so either deal would boast a challenge to Netflix, although Disney plans to start its own separate streaming service in Fall 2019.
The Disney deal includes 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000, 20th Century Fox Television, FX Productions, Fox21, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, Fox Sports Regional Networks, Fox Networks Group International, Star India and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Sky, and Endemol Shine Group.
The deal doesn’t include the Fox Broadcasting network and stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network. Those will be spun off into a newly-listed company.
When the deal was announced, it was also revealed that The Walt Disney Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger had agreed to continue in the position through the end of calendar year 2021 to oversee the transition.
Keep reading ComingSoon.net for future details on the fate of the 21st Century Fox assets!