By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
When Disney announced their massive $52 Billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, I had a hunch there would be rough waters ahead with federal regulators. Now there’s talk the Disney-Fox deal may not go through based on how AT&Ts bid to take over Time Warner is going. Moreover, Comcast is emerging as a likely replacement. But won’t that offer the same problems?
The issue is revealing the coalescing of the industry as major corporations continue to buy one another. Concerned, the US Department of Justice has taken the move block AT&T’s Time Warner merger based on anti-trust concerns. The feds did something similar when the wireless carrier attempted to buy T-Mobile several years ago.
“Disney is already preparing itself for a Comcast topping bid and considering responses in case, according to multiple people familiar with Disney’s thinking,” the report states.
Now it looks like AT&T is in federal cross hairs with their attempt to buy Time Warner. The end result of which, could ultimately have an impact on Disney’s merger with Fox. It also means Comcast may emerge as an unlikely player in the whole mess. CNBC reports Comcast may be preparing to become a competitive suitor for Fox. Consequently, a bidding war could erupt. “Comcast executives suggested to [Fox founder Rupert] Murdoch last year they would be willing to pay significantly more for Fox’s assets than what Disney was offering,” the report says.
CNBC also says Murdoch opted for Disney’s offer due to regulatory concerns. But my question is, would there really be much difference between the two? Comcast, which had abandoned its own effort to buy Time Warner, owns Universal Studios and NBC’s broadcast and cable networks. It’s also a silent partner in Hulu’s streaming network. That sounds pretty similar to Disney to me. Granted, Disney’s reach is probably bigger from a theme park perspective, but not by much, as Comcast is a dominant player in the cable market.
So, as speculated, the Disney-Fox merger has a lot to overcome to get federal approval. But let’s look at the worst case scenario. Should the deal get spoiled, I wonder if Disney CEO Robert Iger will be satisfied with simply buying back the rights to the original Star Wars and to any Marvel property Fox controls. Isn’t that really what’s driving the merger anyway?
On top of that, the same judge who will hear the feds case against the AT&T/Time Warner merger, initially expressed concerns over the Comcast/NBC Universal when he signed off on it back in 2011. As part of the acquisition, Comcast ultimately had to agree to be a silent partner in Hulu and offer low cost broadband internet access.
It’s possible something similar will be required of both Disney and AT&T to get what they want. Consequently, it could end up costing Disney more than planned if Comcast decides to try and make things difficult with a competing bid. Not surprising as Universal and Disney have had a long rivalry. Then there’s the interesting wrinkle a Comcast/Fox merger would force Disney to work with them on Marvel projects such as Deadpool, The X-Men and Fantastic Four, a tempestuous marriage of convenience, at best.
I wouldn’t be expecting them coming to the MCU just yet.