Walt Disney Co. (DIS) has reopened discussions with Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOX) about buying some of the media giant’s assets, according to The Wall Street Journal, just weeks after a potential deal between the two companies appeared to be off.
The negotiations center on Fox’s movie and TV studios, international assets, such as U.K. satellite TV provider Sky PLC and India’s Star TV, and some U.S. cable networks, people familiar with the situation told the Journal. Sources added that Fox News, the Fox broadcast network and sports network FS1 aren’t expected to be part of the deal, which could be given the green light as early as year's end by Rupert Murdoch and his family.
Disney’s efforts to reignite talks, just weeks after initial discussions failed, could, however, be thwarted by interest from other parties. According to the Journal, Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), Sony Corp.'s (SNE) entertainment unit and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) are also keen to make a deal happen. Sources said the extent of discussions are unclear, but added that Comcast, like Disney, is engaged in active talks with Fox about buying some of its assets.
Fox’s 30 percent stake in streaming service Hulu is believed to be of particular interest. Disney and Comcast also each own 30 percent of the company, so a buyout of Fox’s share would enable the winning bidder to gain majority control of the subscription video and on demand service.
Disney reportedly views Fox’s assets as a perfect fit for its new streaming services. With Fox’s movie studios, cable channels and international reach on board, Burbank, Calif.-based Disney should be better placed to take on Netflix Inc. (NFLX) when its own streaming service goes live in 2019. (See also: What a Disney, Fox Merger Could Mean for Netflix.)
“Disney would gain more scale in TV and film production, cable networks, as well as adding its own distribution angle while accelerating its [direct to consumer video] strategy,” MoffettNathanson analysts wrote in a recent research note, according to the Financial Times.
Getting a deal over the finishing line won’t be easy, though. The Justice Department is currently seeking to block AT&T Inc.'s (T) proposed takeover of Time Warner Inc. (TWX), based on concerns that a tie-up between the companies will reduce competition and harm consumers. (See also: Where Time Warner Could Go If AT&T Deal Fails.)