Media outlets reported on Dec. 14 that the California-based Walt Disney Company has entered into an all-stock deal worth approximately $52.4 billion with 21st Century Fox. Industry experts say that Fox will separate many of its broadcasting assets, including the Fox News Channel and the Big Ten Network, into a new media company while Disney will acquire some of the most valuable intellectual properties in the entertainment business.
While some analysts are praising Disney for adding franchises like Marvel’s X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four to a lineup that already includes Star Wars and a litany of beloved animated characters, others say that the deal reflects changes in the entertainment sector and the different ways that consumers now choose to access media. An industry once dominated by traditional broadcasters and film producers has been revolutionized in recent years by companies like Netflix that allow customers far more control over their entertainment choices. Even more disconcerting for Disney and other traditional media organizations is the interest that technology giants like Google, Amazon and Apple have shown in producing and distributing films and television shows.
When asked about the acquisition, Disney CEO Robert Iger was more enthusiastic about gaining a controlling interest in the streaming network Hulu than he was about obtaining Fox’s intellectual properties and library of classic films. However, celebrations were somewhat muted as the deal is likely to be scrutinized closely by government regulators who recently blocked another huge entertainment sector deal involving Time Warner and AT&T.
It often makes sense for companies to acquire competitors when industries evolve or new opportunities emerge, but mergers and acquisitions can be extremely complex and difficult to close. Attorneys with experience in this area may appreciate the challenges involved in bringing companies that have been bitter rivals to the negotiating table, and they could urge the parties involved to set goals and find common ground before thorny issues are discussed.