Disney’s Deal to Merge With FOX Receives Justice Department Approval

Disney can buy 21st Century Fox for $71 billion feds say

The U.S. Justice Department approved Walt Disney Co.'s proposed $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox Inc. assets on Wednesday, on the condition that Disney divest Fox's regional sports networks. Disney already owns ESPN, a network so big it's commonly referred to as "the worldwide leader", and there was a belief, at least initially, the company would want to leverage the local sports channels to bolster ESPN's offerings. The conditions placed by the Justice Department allow Disney to still absorb the parts of Fox that have become key to its long-term strategy, namely the company's movie and television studio, . With this deal, Disney will get ownership of 20th Century Fox movie and television studio, cable channels including FX and National Geographic, and Fox's portfolio of global operations, including a fast-growing pay-TV service in India.

The Justice Department said that without the divestitures, "the proposed acquisition would eliminate the substantial head-to-head competition that now exists between Disney and Fox and would likely result in higher prices for cable sports programming".

If Disney prevails over Comcast, the combination would expand Disney's unrivaled portfolio of some of the world's most popular characters, uniting Mickey Mouse, Luke Skywalker and Marvel superheroes with Fox's X-Men, "Avatar" and "The Simpsons" franchises.

In the ongoing battle for most of 21st Century Fox's assets, here's another point in favor of Disney.

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Disney must first sell its 22 regional sports networks, the Department of Justice said. Proponents of the Disney offer see the company as having fewer entanglements given that, unlike Comcast, it does not operate a leading distributor.

The approval may make it harder for Comcast to win over Fox, which had rejected an earlier bid over concerns about regulatory scrutiny.

A settlement was promptly reached, giving Disney 90 days from the closing of the Fox deal to sell off the regional sports networks. The news comes on the heels of AT&T buying Time Warner for $81 billion. Comcast, whose offer is worth $65 billion United States, declined to comment.

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