Walt Disney Co won US approval to buy Twenty-First Century Fox Inc entertainment assets for $71.3 billion on condition it sell Fox’s 22 regional sports networks, giving Disney an edge over Comcast Corp’s competing bid.
The Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday won US antitrust approval for its $71.3 billion bid for Twenty-First Century Fox's entertainment assets.
Disney must first sell its 22 regional sports networks, the Department of Justice said. The company has 90 days to sell the networks, with an option to extend for another 90 days.
The deal does not include the nationally broadcast Fox News, Fox Business or Fox Sports networks.
The Fox movie franchises and TV shows have been the subject of a bidding war between Disney and Comcast, both of which want to expand their own entertainment businesses to compete with fast-growing digital rivals Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc.
Competing with Amazon and Netflix
Comcast offered nearly $66 billion for Fox's assets, which include the FX network and the studio that houses the X-Men franchise.
Fox has the option to consider other offers and Comcast could raise its bid.
The battle for Twenty-First Century Fox reflects a new imperative among entertainment and telecommunications firms. They are amassing ever more programming to better compete with companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers' attention — and dollars.
The news comes on the heels of AT&T buying Time Warner for $81 billion.
"Today's settlement will ensure that sports programming competition is preserved in the local markets where Disney and Fox compete for cable and satellite distribution," said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department's antitrust division in a statement.
Disney said it was “pleased” with the agreement reached with the Justice Department and said it looked forward to creating “even more compelling consumer experiences.”
Fox declined to comment.
Will Comcast fight back?
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.
Comcast, whose offer is worth $65 billion, declined to comment.
Analysts have antitrust concerns about Comcast’s competing bid, which would add Fox’s movie and TV studios to Comcast’s NBC Universal.
Chief Executive Brian Roberts had said that Comcast was willing to offer the same conditions as Disney and promised to fight for the deal in court if necessary.