After a last-second attempt by Comcast to scuttle the deal, Disney and Fox have officially reached an agreement that will see Bob Iger and company take over many of 21st Century Fox’s movie and television assets, including regional sports networks. Disney will pay $71.3 billion in the deal, the companies announced Wednesday.
News of a potential Fox-Disney deal first broke back in November, and an agreement was formally announced the following month, with Disney paying a reported $52.4 billion in exchange for 21st Century Fox’s movie studio, the Fox television studio and certain cable networks (but not FS1). The deal hit a snag, however, when Comcast outbid Fox for the British network Sky (which was supposed to be included in the Disney transaction), then began pursuing a $65 billion all-cash bid to thwart the entire Disney-Fox agreement.
Now it seems that Disney has prevailed over Comcast but at a steep price, with the bidding war having cost the company nearly $20 billion. Via The Hollywood Reporter:
Fox’s board met Wednesday and was understood to be weighing the price tags of bids for the Fox assets that are for sale along with tax bills, which are higher for cash bids, regulatory concerns and other issues.
Fox around 8 a.m. ET said the sweetened Disney offer was “superior” to Comcast’s. “We are extremely proud of the businesses we have built at 21st Century Fox, and firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace at a dynamic time for our industry,” said Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of Fox. “We remain convinced that the combination of 21st Century Fox’s iconic assets, brands and franchises with Disney’s will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world.”
From a sports perspective, the big impact of this deal remains Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s regional sports network empire, which includes 20 channels across the country and airs games for dozens of MLB, NBA and NHL teams. If Disney holds onto those networks, it will have to option to give them ESPN branding and integrate them with the rest of the ESPN universe — or keep them separate from the operation in Bristol and simply reap the profits they provide. And if Disney chooses to sell the networks, perhaps due to federal scrutiny of its deal with Fox, it could have several sensible suitors. Regardless, Wednesday’s news should create significant ripples through sports media.