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Report: 21st Century Fox in talks to sell most assets to Disney

Rupert Murdoch, founder of 21st Century Fox, at the WSJ. Magazine 2017 Innovator Awards. Photo: Evan Agostini / Invision via AP

21st Century Fox has reportedly been in talks to sell most of the company to Walt Disney, per CNBC. The two companies, which reportedly aren't talking at the moment, have been discussing a potential deal on and off again for the last few weeks, signaling that although a sale isn't imminent, the talks could be revisited.

Why it matters: According to CNBC, Fox has been reevaluating its size and scale in the current media landscape, which has changed dramatically in the last few years with tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Netflix dominating a massive portion of digital video content and its distribution. Fox reportedly recognizes that competing in that space requires a scale that that Disney has, but Fox doesn't.

More details:

  • CNBC reported that there is "a growing belief" among Fox's senior management that there is no path forward to grow its entertainment business through acquisition. Instead, Fox feels that a "more tightly focused group of properties around news and sports" would be most effective in the current media environment.
  • Meanwhile for Disney, acquiring another major movie studio, with exposure to international markets, and its TV production assets could be advantageous as Disney gears up to launch its own streaming services.

What Disney won't buy:

  • The Fox broadcast network, as it's not allowed to own two separate broadcast networks.
  • Fox's sports programming assets. This would be to avoid concerns that, in combination with ESPN, the assets would be anti-competitive from an antitrust point of view.
  • Fox's local broadcasted affiliates, reports CNBC, citing people familiar with the negotiations.
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