After weeks of speculation, the House of Mouse has secured a landmark US$66.1-billion deal to acquire 21st Century Fox, including film and television studios, cable entertainment networks and international TV businesses, a 30% stake in streaming service Hulu and a 39% stake in European satcaster Sky.
The deal will also see Robert Iger remain as chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company through 2021.
Due to anti-competition rules, Disney cannot purchase the Fox Broadcast network, thus the Fox News and Fox Sports businesses will remain under Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch’s control.
In the all-stock deal, 21st Century Fox shareholders will receive 0.3 Disney shares for every 21st Century Fox share they hold (subject to adjustment for certain tax liabilities). Disney’s acquisition price holds a total equity value of around US$52.4 billion and a total transaction value of approximately US$66.1 billion. Disney will also take on roughly US$13.7 billion of Fox’s net debt. In total, the acquisition is expected to deliver at least US$2 billion in cost savings.
On the film production side, Disney has acquired Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000, bringing the studios’ raft of fan-favorite properties including Avatar, X-Men and Fantastic Four under its control (the latter two properties being reunited with Disney’s Marvel family).
As for television, Disney will take over Twentieth Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox21, adding hit family-friendly Fox shows like Modern Family and The Simpsons to its vast portfolio. Disney has also snapped up National Geographic Partners and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Sky, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group. By taking Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu, Disney is now a majority owner of the service. How the move will fit with Disney’s own direct-to-consumer SVOD service launch in 2019 remains to be seen.
Along with strengthening its SVOD business, Disney’s Fox acquisition is expected to bolster its consumer products and theme park segments, too, especially following the recent launch of Pandora—The World of Avatar at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Park.
The acquisition comes following declines in Disney’s cable, broadcasting and studio Q4 earnings, although its Parks and Resorts business continues to show growth with revenue increasing by 6% to US$4.7 billion.
Looking at Disney’s new stake in Sky, it is expected that Fox will look to finalize its planned acquisition of the extra 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own and is aiming to close the deal by June 30, 2018. If Fox completes the planned acquisition prior to the closing of Disney’s Fox takeover, Disney would assume full ownership of Sky.