While shares in 21st Century Fox spiked in midday trading Monday following a market-rattling report from CNBC that the Murdochs have held talks in recent weeks to sell a large portion of their media conglomerate to Disney, the real winners could be geeks. Particularly fans of Marvel, who would die and go to geek heaven when the X-Men can team up with the Avengers, and Kevin Feige can develop an actual Fantastic Four movie that works. The possibilities are endless.
But back to reality: A report on Variety said CNBC’s David Faber reported that the sale talks have centered around the 20th Century Fox movie and TV production operations, the FX Networks and National Geographic TV cable groups as well as Fox’s enormous portfolio of international channels.
For Disney, the acquisition as reported would strengthen its market share in film — which is already considerable thanks to the Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm banners — and beef up its TV content production activity. Fox’s film and TV vault would also be a boon to the standalone entertainment streaming service that Disney plans to launch in 2019.
The deal, as reported by CNBC, would leave Fox with the Fox Broadcasting Co. network, the Fox Television Stations unit and the Fox Sports and Fox News operations. Those carve-outs are no surprise as FCC rules bar one company from owning more than one of the Big Four broadcast networks. Disney already owns ABC. The combination of Fox Sports with Disney’s ESPN and Fox News with ABC News might also raise anti-trust hackles.
Fox at present is in the midst of a prolonged regulatory review in the U.K. to buyout the remaining 61% in European satcaster Sky that it does not already own. Word of the Disney sale talks could indicate a lack of confidence among the Murdochs that the acquisition will pass muster with regulators who have long wrestled with Murdochs’ influence over U.K. media.
The report added that in considering a sale to Disney, the Murdochs believe a smaller operation more focused on news and sports might carve out a more competitive niche. At present, 21st Century Fox is still a heavyweight industry player but it is dwarfed in size by Comcast-NBCUniversal, Disney, and the pending AT&T-Time Warner union. CNBC reported the Murdochs are concerned that 21st Century Fox is unable to achieve the global scale that traditional media giants need to stay competitive with the tech giants that have been actively diving into content and distribution: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.
By Justina Terhember