Walt Disney Co.’s landmark bid for major assets of 21st Century Fox Inc. is rocketing through the antitrust review process, and the deal might close faster than Disney’s initial June 2019 target date, according to Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger.
“We’ve gotten more optimistic about our ability to close much earlier than the June timeframe that we talked about,” Iger said during a Nov. 8 conference call.
Disney announced in mid-November that regulators in China gave the deal unconditional approval.
Chinese approval came after the European Union signed off on the agreement on the condition Disney sell its European stake in A&E Networks, a joint-venture between Disney and Hearst Communications Inc.
Disney will shed the A&E channels, including History and Lifetime, while picking up 21st Century Fox’s prized content and distribution apparatus as well as its 30 percent share in Hulu.
Messages left with Disney were not
Foreign regulators embarked on their respective approval processes after the U.S. Justice Department greenlit the Disney-Fox deal in June. The DOJ approved the deal swiftly, even before Fox’s and Disney’s shareholders signed off, after Disney agreed to sell Fox’s 22 regional sports networks upon completion of the acquisition.
“We are seeing deals go through the Justice Department that raise multiple competitive issues,” said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.
But Moss said the speedy legal approval is in line with the Donald Trump administration’s antitrust policy of focusing on just one part of an agreement. In this case, Moss said, regulators dealt specifically with the issue of televised sports, fearing that Disney’s ownership of ESPN, plus the regional sports networks, could harm consumers.
But regulators didn’t highlight other potential problems with the deal, such as the outsized share of the film distribution market Disney will now control, Moss said, and that Disney will own a majority share in Hulu on top of its own soon-to-launch streaming service.
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Hollywood v. ‘Hollywood South’
Political controversy in Georgia could hurt that state’s entertainment industry – and perhaps help Hollywood.
Georgia is currently facing calls for a boycott by Hollywood actors including Alyssa Milano and Ron Perlman, and producers such as Judd Apatow who say the state unlawfully prohibited many African-American voters from casting ballots in the Nov. 6 election.
Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is black, in the state’s race for governor.