Disney Receives US Antitrust Approval to Buy Fox Assets

Yolanda Curtis
June 28, 2018

There is one condition, though: under the Justice Department's ruling, Disney must sell all 22 regional sports networks now owned by Fox.

Many investors had already expected that Fox's Regional Sports Network would be cut out of the deal, so this news from the DOJ shouldn't shakes things up too much.

The DOJ settlement does not seal the deal - rival bidder Comcast is expected to sweeten its $65 billion, or $35-a-share, all-cash offer for the Fox assets, which include the RSNs, the 20th Century Fox movie studio, cable stations and its stake in Sky and Hulu.

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The deal is of particular interest to movie fans, as Fox holds the rights to many popular Marvel characters, most notably the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

Together, Fox's regional sports networks have about 61 million subscribers and have rights to broadcast live games of 44 of 91 US professional sports teams in three of the four major sports leagues. The company had earlier said in proxy filings that it would sell the sports networks if required by the government.

There were concerns that Disney having control of those sports networks in addition to their ESPN channels would be a violation of antitrust laws and could give Disney the ability to force cable operators or internet distributors to raise their prices. Disney has 90 days to seal the acquisition, with an option to extend for another 90 days. A week ago, Disney returned with an amended agreement with Fox for $71.3 billion, split evenly between cash and stock.

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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". Comcast offered almost $66 billion for Fox's assets, which include the FX network and the studio that houses the X-Men franchise.

FILE PHOTO: The 21st Century Fox logo is displayed on the side of a building in midtown Manhattan in NY, U.S., February 27, 2018.

According to Reuters, Fox's RSNs have about 61 million subscribers and have rights to broadcast live games of 44 of 91 USA professional sports teams in three of the four major sports leagues.

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Disney and Fox didn't immediately have a comment.

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