Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Rebecca Zisser

Walt Disney Co. has been granted government approval to acquire 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets for $71.3 billion, by agreeing to divest Fox's 22 regional sports networks (RSNs) as a part of the deal approval process.

Why it matters: Comcast is expected to again top Disney's bid for the same properties in the coming weeks, but the swift regulatory approval for Disney could make it more appealing for Fox shareholders to favor Disney's bid over Comcast's.

Why regional sports? The Justice Department previously filed a complaint against Disney acquiring Fox's 22 regional sports networks, arguing it would give Disney's ESPN an anti-competitive edge over other sports networks.

How it works: The DOJ has entered into a consent decree with Disney and 21st Century Fox that allows the acquisition to proceed, as long as the deal also involves the sale of Fox's RSNs.

  • Under the consent decree, Disney will have at least 90 days from the date of closing the transaction to complete the sale of the networks, with the possibility that the DOJ can grant extensions for up to another 90 days, according to a statement from Disney.

Swift approval was expected, given the fact that a Disney-Fox merger would be "horizontal" — a merger between two companies in a similar business (content). Experts thought that in this case, a horizontal merger would pose less of an anti-competitive threat than if Fox had engaged in a "vertical" merger, selling its assets to a distribution company, like Comcast.

  • The Justice Department's antitrust chief alluded to a swift approval process last month, when he said the deal was "surgically" cut for approval.
  • Many saw this as a sign to Fox shareholders that the Comcast merger would, as expected, face greater regulatory scrutiny.

The bigger picture: Comcast has been trying to to outbid Disney for the same Fox properties for months, but Fox has been more cautious in its efforts, having previously cited concerns over regulatory approvals.

What's next? Despite regulatory complications, Comcast is expected to submit yet another bid to top Disney's $38 per share offer in the coming days.

  • Sources say that Comcast's new bid would likely hit the low to mid $40s per share range.
  • It will then be up to Fox's stakeholders to determine how much higher Comcast's bid would need to be in order to risk a more complicated regulatory process to get that bid approved.

Go deeper

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.