Walt Disney Co. is taking a huge step toward satisfying its appetite for content as it competes with upstart streaming giants such as Netflix, announcing on Thursday that it will acquire most of 21st Century Fox for about $52.4 billion.
The Hollywood mega-merger means the wave of consolidation in the media industry has now swept over octogenarian mogul Rupert Murdoch, who built the Fox empire but has seen it struggle to find a foothold in the new streaming world.
Disney would acquire such prized assets as the 20th Century Fox studio, Fox regional sports networks, and the FX cable channel while 21st Century Fox will separate the Fox broadcasting network, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and some national sports networks into a new company that will be spun off to its shareholders.
“The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from 21st Century Fox reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible and convenient than ever before,” Disney CEO Robert Iger said in a news release.
Other recent media deals have included AT&T’s $85.4 billion offer for Time Warner, Charter Communications acquisition of Time Warner Cable for about $65 billion, and Lionsgate’s purchase of Starz for around $4.4 billion.
“Staying small — or even medium-sized — is simply no longer seen as a viable option for many in the sector,” Variety said.
As CNN reports, “Disney, which counts ESPN among its crown jewels, has suffered as consumers switch off their TVs and spend more hours watching streaming services such as Netflix that are distributed directly to consumers.”
The Fox deal would give Disney a majority stake in the Hulu streaming service as it prepares to launch separate streaming services for sports and for entertainment. “Adding Fox’s television and movie studios and the content they own means adding to the stable of must-watch content it can offer directly to consumers — and that streaming competitors can not,” Variety noted.
In what was at the time the second-largest corporate takeover ever, Disney acquired Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion in 1995.