US Justice Department gives go-ahead for Disney-Fox merger amid bidding war

The DOJ gave the go-ahead to Disney to merge with 21st Century Fox today. / Jomar via Unsplash

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) today approved the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by the Walt Disney Company.

The announcement came a week after the DOJ lost a lawsuit against AT&T's merger to Time Warner (now named Warnermedia), which further cleared out a path for Disney's $71bn bid to happen, as well as others predicted to follow. According to reports today, Comcast has been looking to assemble assets to make another bid for the Murdoch-owned media conglomerate.

As an anti-trust provision, Disney was asked by the DOJ to relinquish 22 of its regional sports networks to provide fair competition in that space and has 90 days to restructure.

Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the DOJ’s anti-trust division said in a statement: “American consumers have benefitted from head-to-head competition between Disney and Fox’s cable sports programming that ultimately has prevented cable television subscription prices from rising even higher. 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.”

Disney replied to the government’s approval, saying: “We are pleased that the DOJ concluded that, with the exception of the proposed acquisition of the Fox Sports Regional Networks, the transaction will not harm competition, and that we were able to resolve the limited potential concerns to position us to move forward with this exciting opportunity that will enable us to create even more compelling consumer experiences."

With the wealth of content and franchises in the combined entity’s library, some say this merger gives added reason for the Disney-”New Fox” outlet to ensure their properties are properly accounted for.

Will Kreth, the executive director of the Entertainment Identifier Registry Association (EIDR), said: “As the pace of M&A activity picks up among the studios, networks and content distributors - the heavy lifting to integrate thousands of currently in-window and library titles into the new combined archives of these companies will be considerable. They’ll want to avail themselves of global ID standards (like EIDR) for correctly identifying the inventories of just what they’ve bought, as well as the task of mining the archives for monetizeable licensing of content, down to the clip/outtake level.”

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