Disney is close to buying assets from 21st Century Fox, and it could mean Disney ends up owning 30%-40% of the US box office, and 60% of Hulu.
On Tuesday, CNBC reported that Disney was close to a deal to buy large chunks of 21st Century Fox. Such a deal could lead to quite a concentration of power in media.
CNBC reported that Disney could pick up “Fox's Nat Geo, Star, regional sports networks, movie studios and stakes in Sky and Hulu, among other properties.” Disney would leave Fox’s news, broadcast network, and sports intact (except the regional sports networks).
This would be a mammoth deal for media, and could set Disney up for a coming war with Netflix (as my colleague Mike Shields and I looked at yesterday). The competition with tech is key, as it's likely the argument Disney would make to the DOJ. Disney would probably say that the DOJ should allow the deal to go through because Disney needs the new assets to stand against the vanguard of Silicon Valley giants invading Hollywood, from Netflix to Amazon to Facebook to Apple. It’s the same basic argument AT&T has made in favor of its proposed purchase of Time Warner, which owns properties like Turner, Warner Bros., and HBO.
Still, the threat from Silicon Valley to many media incumbents is undeniable, and should be a factor when deciding the antitrust implications of combinations like Disney-Fox. On the other side will be an evaluation of how much power such a deal would consolidate in the hands of Disney. And according to the CNBC report, it would be quite a lot.
There were two examples I found particularly meaningful: Hulu, and the box office. According to CNBC, Disney is interested in both 21st Century Fox’s movie studio and its stake in Hulu.
Here’s what that would mean:
These are just two examples, and they don't even touch on sports (ESPN, and so on), but they illustrate the kind of advantage this deal would afford Disney. The main question for regulators will be whether such a concentration of power is needed to allow Disney to compete against foes and frenemies in industries spanning from tech to telecom (AT&T, Verizon), or whether it’s a step too far in curbing competition.