Disney renews interest in buying much of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox empire

By Meg James

 

Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Walt Disney Co. has renewed talks to buy 21st Century Fox’s movie studio, television production arm, some cable channels and international television operations, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Earlier this fall, Disney executives approached Rupert Murdoch and his sons about buying key Fox entertainment assets, but negotiations stalled when the two sides could not agree on price, the Los Angeles Times has previously reported.

Disney has been interested in Fox’s entertainment properties as the Burbank entertainment giant gears up to launch two video streaming services in the next two years to compete against Netflix. Having access to thousands of Fox movie and television titles would give Disney a deeper library to offer streaming service subscribers.

Disney is not interested in buying Fox News Channel, the Fox broadcast network or the Fox television stations. Disney has its own broadcast network, ABC.

A Fox spokesman declined to comment. A Disney representative was not immediately available for comment Saturday.

Disney’s reported renewal of talks with Fox came after Comcast Corp. and Sony Pictures Entertainment expressed interest in the Fox assets. Comcast also has been separately engaged in the talks, according to another person with knowledge of the matter.

Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is keenly interested in Fox’s regional sports networks and Fox’s 39 percent stake in European pay-TV giant Sky as well as Fox’s pay-TV service in India. Among the American media companies, Fox has been most aggressive about expanding internationally.

Analysts have said that Fox is most likely interested in a deal that would give it substantial stock holdings in Disney. The Murdoch family controls Fox with 39 percent of the company’s voting shares. James Murdoch, 44, Fox’s chief executive and Rupert Murdoch’s youngest son, would like to have a role in the company that ultimately buys Fox assets, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

The Journal, which is owned by another company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, said the mogul and his family are expected to make a decision by year’s end on whether to sell such a huge part of their entertainment empire.

 

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