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

returned.

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.

• • •

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.

Abrams has claimed Kemp used his position leading the state office that oversees elections to deny people their right to vote. Abrams has said she plans to file a lawsuit over the matter.

But the Democratic candidate resisted joining calls from entertainment industry figures to boycott Georgia, tweeting on Nov. 17, “The Georgians who make a living and take care of their families through entertainment are not to blame for the gross mismanagement of our democracy.”

When it comes to using tax credits to lure entertainment productions, no state comes close to Georgia’s generosity. According to a Georgia budget office report, the Peach State spends around $800 million each year on film tax credits, the most of any state.

California, by comparison, spends about $330 million a year.

Georgia’s credits include movies such as “Black Panther” and TV shows including “The Walking Dead.” Its incentive program reimburses as much as 30 percent of all costs of qualifying projects, including the salaries of actors, directors and screenwriters, according to the program’s website.

The California Film Commission, the agency responsible for administering this state’s tax credit program, acknowledged in a report last month that Georgia now produces more films with budgets over $100 million than California does.

It’s still unclear whether the latest calls for a Georgia boycott will send any production back to Hollywood. The California Film Commission declined to comment.

• • •

A Somewhat New Mitu

Digital media company Mitu Inc. announced last month that it was welcoming back co-founder Roy Burstin as chief executive and that it has raised $10 million in new funding.

Based in Santa Monica, Mitu sells advertisements and sponsorships for semiprofessional internet personalities with followings on YouTube and Instagram, focusing on the Latino market.

Since launching in 2012, the company has raised a total of $53 million, including $27 million in a 2016 round. Palo Alto-based Leap Global Partners led the latest fundraising round.

Mitu laid off 30 of its 100 employees in July, stating it was prioritizing “profits over growth.”

In an email this week, Burstin said the company hasn’t made any other staffing cuts since then, but he added Mitu will continue to hew to a more streamlined approach with few new projects.

Staff Reporter Matthew Blake can be reached at mblake@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 556-8332.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.