Ahead of 21st Century Fox’s meeting to consider Comcast’s $65 billion all-cash offer to buy the 20th Century Fox studio and most of the company’s media assets, The Walt Disney Company finally countered earlier today with a $71.3 million bid in cash and Disney stock, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Comcast has long been a suitor for Fox’s media assets, which does not include the Fox broadcast network, Fox News, or its cable sports holdings. When news of the Fox/Disney merger first emerged last Fall, Comcast quickly appeared as a potential buyer. At the time, many believed Fox boss Rupert Murdoch preferred the Disney deal because it would have an easier time making its way through the regulatory challenges Comcast, as both a cable provider and content creator, may not be able to clear. The recent approval of a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, now called WarnerMedia, changed that belief with analysts claiming Murdoch will do what is best for shareholders — getting the best price for the assets Fox wants to sell.
But according to Disney CEO Bob Iger, the WarnerMedia decision still supports the claim that Disney will have an easier time dealing with regulators than Comcast because the cable company already owns a major studio, Universal Pictures, its film library, the NBC broadcast network and its cable channels.”When you factor in their content ownership already, including a major broadcast network and multiple television stations and multiple cable channels, it’s just simply an apples to oranges comparison to what the Justice Department was considering in the AT&T acquisition of Time Warner,” Iger told analysts during a conference call this morning.
Curiously, Comcast’s interest in the Fox assets has always centered around its international cable holdings with the 20th Century Fox’s media library a secondary concern. Disney’s primary interest has been the media library to boost the content of its forthcoming streaming platform.
Iger also added the company has a “meaningful head start” in regards to the regulatory hurdles facing the Disney/Fox merger. Comcast would have to start over with government regulators should its offer be accepted.
At the moment, it appears Fox is taking the offer with Murdoch saying, “[We] firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace at a dynamic time for our industry.” Nonetheless, Fox has postponed its planned July 10th meeting to formally approve the offer with shareholders. The delay was said to give shareholders time to review the competing bids.
As Iger noted during the call, “Fox is in the driver’s seat.”