Last week, it became official. The Disney-Fox deal is now a done deal with The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) completing its acquisition of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox for a cool $71 billion. In a news release, Disney called this the “unprecedented collection of high-quality creative content, stellar talent and cutting-edge technologies” that will allow the company to expedite its direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming strategy and expand its presence to new audiences.
Its DTC offerings include ESPN+, ownership interest in Hulu, and Disney +, its yet-to-be-launched streaming video-on-demand service coming later this year. According to Robert Iger, Disney chairman and CEO, in an interview with The New York Times, Disney’s direct-to-consumer business is the company’s top priority.
“This is an extraordinary and historic moment for us-one that will create significant long-term value for our company and our shareholders,” said Iger in a March 21 news release. “Combining Disney’s and 21st Century Fox’s wealth of creative content and proven talent creates the preeminent global entertainment company, well positioned to lead in an incredibly dynamic and transformative era.”
This incredible acquisition includes the following:
- 20th Century Fox
- Fox Searchlight Pictures
- Fox 2000 Pictures
- Fox Family and Fox Animation
- 20th Century Fox Television
- FX Productions
- FX Networks
- National Geographic Partners
- Fox Networks Group International
- Star India, a television service provider in India
- Ownership interests in Hulu, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group
Disney is also acquiring $19.8 billion in cash and assuming $19.2 billion of debt. By 2021, Disney expects to realize at least $2 billion in cost savings by combining the businesses. The Times reports that Fox shareholders of sold assets could either cash out or accept Disney shares in place of the cash. As of last Friday, about 37 percent requested Disney shares, 52 percent asked for cash, and the remainder did not state a preference.
As part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice who had to offer regulatory approval for the sale to be completed, Disney agreed to sell off 21st Century Fox’s Regional Sports Networks which includes 22 regional sports channels. The New York Times reports that, to satisfy European regulators, Disney also had to sell its stake in A + E Networks, including the History Channel.
Since the completion of the sale, Disney stock dropped slightly and then rebounded. Considering that shareholders have known of the deal for quite some time, it is not surprising that the reaction had little effect. The current stock price – $110.71 per share as of 7:06 p.m. EDT yesterday – is right in the middle of the company’s 52-week high of $120.20 and 52-week low of $97.68.
Industry experts are saying that Disney is more than an entertainment company now; it is a technology company too, as evidenced by the technology it is investing in direct-to-consumer services, first with ESPN+, soon with Disney+, plus its ownership stake in Hulu. Disney is betting big that its billion-dollar bankroll and exclusive content will pit it well above its competitors. That’s easier said than done, but Disney doesn’t do anything halfway. It will be interesting to see how they integrate the many assets they’ve purchased and how they will impact Disney’s new DTC strategy.