21st Century Fox in talks with Disney over potential mega sale

Posted November 08, 2017

The two sides are "not now talking at this very moment".

Fox was willing to discuss an acquisition with Disney because its senior management believes the way to scale its media properties is not by buying others, the report said.

21st Century Fox's global exposure through its operations in markets such as the UK, Germany and Italy is also appealing to Disney, which would likely want to add key assets such as UK satcaster Sky and Star in Asia as well as entertainment networks like FX and National Geographic.

Quoting unnamed sources, the report said 21st Century Fox will be left behind with just news and sports if the talks reach a logical conclusion. Walt Disney can't own two broadcast networks, so it wouldn't buy the Fox network.

The deal would trim 21st Century Fox's assets into a more focused slate of news and sports networks to better compete in a changing media landscape, the report said.

Odey's opposition to the 11.7 billion-pound ($15.4 billion) takeover comes after CNBC reported that Murdoch's Fox had recently held talks about selling some assets to Disney. It also could extend Disney's reach into worldwide markets.

One Wall Street said any potential asset sale will not come cheap. The fact that the Murdoch family empire, or at least parts of it, are for sale is a "big change". (Disney acquired ABC in 1996.) It would also exclude Fox's sports channels to avoid regulatory concerns that combining them with ESPN would be anticompetitive.

CNBC first reported that the two conglomerates had been in preliminary, on-again/off-again talks, though they are in the "off again" mode right now. "For those that have the National Football League now, it is the most important piece of programming, so the risk would be the next set of negotiations should drive up prices, and if you're smaller, it's going to cost you a lot more on earnings than it would if you were bigger" ("Squawk Box", CNBC, 11/7).

Murdoch, 86, began a gradual withdrawal from both companies in 2013, and now shares the title of chairman with his eldest son Lachlan at both firms.

Disney in August announced a new direct-to-consumer streaming service to compete with Netflix that will cut Netflix out of much of its content mix. DEADLINE's Chmielewski & Hayes noted in the short term, most Wall Street analysts and media observers see "plenty of upside for Disney but murkier prospects for Fox" (DEADLINE.com, 11/6).

The report did not include a price that Disney may have offered 21st Century Fox.