Justice Department signs off on Disney-Fox merger

The Kingsman franchise is one of Fox's core properties.                  Twentieth Century Fox

USA regulators have cleared Walt Disney Co's plan to buy most of 21st Century Fox, removing a final barrier to the $71.3bn (£54.2bn) deal.

According to the Department's complaint, Disney and Fox compete to sell cable sports programming to MVPDs in various local markets across the United States.

Disney agreed to divest the 22 sports networks in order to get regulatory approval after the Justice Department argued that the companies purchase of Fox's regional sports networks could result in higher prices for sports programming on cable.

"Today's settlement will ensure that sports programming competition is preserved in the local markets where Disney and Fox compete for cable and satellite distribution".

The settlement clears a major hurdle for Disney and Fox, but they still must maneuver antitrust laws around the globe before the merger can be finalized. With this deal, Disney will get ownership of 20th Century Fox movie and television studio, cable channels including FX and National Geographic, and Fox's portfolio of global operations, including a fast-growing pay-TV service in India.

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Sure to strengthen The Walt Disney Company's hand in what has become something of a bidding war between the Mouse House and fellow media conglomerate Comcast, this quick turnaround makes a Disney acquisition appear more likely.

The Disney-Comcast contest will determine who controls much of Rupert Murdoch's empire, including Fox's movie and TV studios, television networks such as FX, a controlling stake in Hulu, and multichannel providers like Star India and Sky Plc. 21st Century Fox shares have increased 49.0% since the first Disney bid was announced on December 13, while Disney's have fallen 3.1%. Even so, THR cautions that "Comcast is not out of the running quite yet as it could still top Disney's offer". This is due to Disney already owning the sports network ESPN and its various channels. The news comes on the heels of AT&T buying Time Warner for $81 billion.

Disney is looking to boost its content as it readies to launch its own streaming service in 2019 to take on Netflix.

The sale would not include assets such as the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, the Fox Sports national networks (FS1 and FS2), and Fox Broadcasting Company.

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