The legal drama surrounding Disney‘s purchase of 21st Century Fox has just heated up as reports have begun to surface stating that global telecommunications conglomerate Comcast is considering topping Disney’s bid to purchase their film assets. In December of last year, Disney struck a deal with 21st Century Fox that would see them purchasing a bulk of the company’s assets for $52.4 billion. This deal would give Disney access to the Fox Vault, which means that they would be able to provide consumers a wider range of films for their upcoming streaming service. It would also give them full legal possession of some of the most iconic franchises in Hollywood such as the X-Men which would receive a warm homecoming at Marvel Studios and James Cameron’s Avatar franchise which was perceived by Disney executives to be the “crown jewel” of the buyout.
On another note, this deal would effectively see Fox exit from the film market as they had believed that they lacked the digital reach to be able to compete with other film studios. 21st Century Fox Executive Co-Chairman Rupert Murdoch reportedly has stated that he would rather focus his business efforts on news and sports coverage, which the media mogul has largely worked with since 1973.
Since December, the deal has been met with a positive reception from average moviegoers and have called it a done deal despite the ink not being dry. The purchase has not been approved by the United States government and has been referred to regulators to see if it is indeed a monopoly and in violation of antitrust laws as some critics of the deal have argued. The regulator’s investigation will presumably take another 11 to 17 months before confirmation is received that the deal is lawful or not. It is likely though that the purchase will go through after United States President Donald J. Trump publicly congratulated Disney on their proposed acquisition. It would appear that there are very few obstacles in the road that could prevent the mass media and entertainment conglomerate from getting it’s proposal approved. However, there is the realistic possibility that regulars could intervene, especially with the looming concerns of antitrust law violations which are brought up within sizable acquisition such as this one.
With Disney being investigated by regulators this can provide a window of opportunity for other competitors to try and make a purchase for a much larger sum of money than what Disney is offering. CNBC has spoken to Comcast insiders who are currently in the middle of considering outbidding Disney’s offer. Disney has reportedly begun to prepare for the possibility that their offer could be topped. It is important to note that Disney’s acquisition is occurring during the same time as an overall regulatory crisis stemming from the US Department of Justice’s lawsuit to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, an unprecedented and unexpected approach according to analysts with knowledge of the matter. These regulatory issues are beginning to emerge as multi-billion dollar tech and entertainment companies like Netflix, Amazon, and HULU are beginning to expand their business practices with in-house productions beginning to produce content such as David Ayer’s Bright and The Man in The High Castle. This is a dilemma for traditional media businesses like 21st Century Fox and Time Warner that are struggling to maintain its competitiveness in the digital space. Managing partner of Intermedia Partners, Leo Hindery told CNBC:
“For the first time, I don’t understand what’s possible regulatorily when it comes to horizontal integration or to vertical integration, and even whether or not behavioral remedies will be meaningful again. There are now inconsistent strategies from company to company and people are stepping every day into each other’s sandboxes.”
In a changing market every company is attempting to find the best way to proceed and continue to yield profits and compete. Comcast’s potential ability to outbid Disney to purchase the company’s assets would be a major economic game-changer. Something that Rupert Murdoch considered when Comcast offered their initial bid before Disney. Ultimately, Murdoch chose to conduct business with Disney as he had concerns over regulatory interference, but it is not impossible that a sizable offer could be made to sway shareholders in such a way as to vote against him not wanting to sell the company to Comcast. As a telecommunications company Comcast is particularly interested in 21st Century Fox’s global reach and influence, which would serve as a colossal boost to their business.
Regardless of the outcome of this deal, a universal truth is being realized by every media company. They are realizing that the future of film and television is going digital, and only those companies who adapt and acquire sizable assets can thrive in a vastly reshaped market. One company is decidedly leaving the market, which has caused a legal duel of the fates between two companies who want to seize the opportunity to expand and grow. It will ultimately change Hollywood as we know it now forever.
What do you think will happen? Let us know in the comments below!