Walt Disney Co. agreed Thursday to buy key film and television assets of 21st Century Fox, in a US$52.4-billion monster deal that bolsters the media-entertainment powerhouse’s challenge to Netflix and emerging rivals in the streaming wars.
The blockbuster stock transaction also vastly reduces the Fox media empire built by Rupert Murdoch, leaving the 86-year-old tycoon and his two sons with a more tightly focused group which includes the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel and sports channels.
The deal was quickly hailed by US President Donald Trump, who congratulated Murdoch – in stark contrast to his administration’s opposition to a tie-up between AT&T and Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.
The new deal will see Disney acquire the vaunted Fox Hollywood film and television studios, cable entertainment networks and international TV businesses, bringing popular entertainment properties including X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons,” FX Networks and National Geographic into Disney’s portfolio.Disney’s move to acquire Fox’s library of content is seen as a bid to bolster its arsenal against Netflix and Amazon as well as emerging tech players like Facebook and Apple, which are cashing in on a move towardsstreaming services and away from traditional pay TV packages. Disney, which owns the ABC TV network, ESPN and has major studios in Hollywood, has been preparing to launch its own streaming service.
The deal would also expand Disney’s global footprint with Fox TV unit Star India – known for sports and entertainment -- and Fox’s 39 percent share in the European-based Sky. Fox has been seeking the remainder of Sky but has faced regulatory scrutiny in Britain.
21st Century Fox said Thursday it will still try to complete its US$15.4-billion takeover offer for Sky, a move that would hand the major European broadcaster over to Disney as it in turn buys most of Fox. Sky is based in London but has strong news and pay- TV operations across Europe, and is particularly prized for its sports broadcasting operations, including the English Premier League soccer matches.
Fox, controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s family, has faced hurdles in trying to buy the 61-percent of Sky it doesn’t already own.