USA gives Disney-Fox deal antitrust approval

USA gives Disney-Fox deal antitrust approval

The deal does not include the nationally broadcast Fox News, Fox Business or Fox Sports networks. Many of those networks compete directly with ESPN, which Disney owns.

Rupert Murdoch, whose family controls 17 percent of Fox shares, is believed to heavily prefer the Disney deal because of the stock factor, which would give him a position in the entertainment giant as well as limit, if not eliminate, his tax liability. Disney would also get Fox's stake in the streaming service Hulu, along with its stake in the European broadcaster Sky.

The deal became possible when Rupert Murdoch, 87, and his sons chose to slim down their media-entertainment empire, leaving them with the Fox News Channel, the Fox broadcast network and some sports cable operations.

The Justice Department said without the sale of the 22 regional sports networks, the deal may have led to higher prices for cable sports watchers in local markets, where Fox and Disney now compete. Fox's shareholders were scheduled to consider Disney's original of $52.4 billion proposal on July 10, but that meeting was rescheduled after Comcast re-entered the picture.

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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.

American consumers have benefitted from head-to-head competition between Disney and Fox's cable sports programming that ultimately has prevented cable television subscription prices from rising even higher. Comcast declined to comment. The proposed settlement requires Disney to divest 22 RSNs, now owned by Fox, to a buyer acceptable to the Department.

After Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed reports that his massive company was "eager" to acquire 21st Century Fox in December, the proposed deal went through several iterations. The approval comes in the wake of the AT&T-Time Warner decision that opened the floodgates for large-scale mergers between industry-adjacent companies.

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