Mickey, meet Rupert. Rupert, shake hands with Mickey. Or something like that as Walt Disney announced Thursday that it had struck a $52.4 billion deal to buy a large chunk of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox.
The agreement, which has been percolating since last month, arms Disney with even more prime video assets to battle the likes of Amazon and Netflix. Specifically, Disney is picking up 21st Century Fox's regional sports networks, movie studio, and cable channels FX and National Geographic. Disney also scores Fox's stakes in European pay-TV provider Sky and streaming service Hulu.
Prior to the closing of the deal, which is projected to be in late June of next year, Fox will spin Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, the Fox broadcasting network and some national sports networks -- FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network -- into a company for its shareholders.
Disney's Bob Iger will stay onboard as chairman and CEO of Disney through 2021.
For many years, Disney enjoyed charging service providers a high premium for ESPN, but the "worldwide leader in sports" has lost some of its appeal as viewers have moved over en masse to streaming services.
Disney is looking to establish itself as an even bigger premium provider of streaming content with the addition of the 21st Century Fox assets, but the deal needs to pass regulatory muster over the coming months. Regulators will be looking at whether Disney will have a sizable market advantage once it absorbs the Fox assets, and how it will charge service providers and distributors for the combined content. Last month, the Justice Department sued to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner.
Under the terms of the stock deal, shareholders of 21st Century Fox will receive 0.2745 Disney shares for each 21st Century Fox share they hold, and will end up owning roughly a quarter of Disney. Disney will assume about $13.7 billion of Fox's debt.
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation