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The Walt Disney Company agreed to pay $52.4 billion for them. Comcast thinks they’re worth $65 billion. So what, exactly, is so enticing about most of the assets of Rupert Murdoch’s decades-old media empire, 21st Century Fox?
DealBook decided to break down why Disney and Comcast are clamoring to buy up a large chunk of Fox.
Movie and TV studios
The attraction of Fox’s movie studio is clear. 20th Century Fox owns blockbuster franchises like “X-Men” and “Avatar,” as well as a highly regarded arthouse-movie shop in Fox Searchlight. All told, Fox’s studios collected more than $1.4 billion at the box office last year, according to Box Office Mojo.
Fox’s television studio produces shows that run from “The Simpsons” to “Modern Family” to “This Is Us.” Disney and Comcast are both planning to develop their own online streaming platforms, and in that domain Netflix and Amazon — which now both produce original content — are the biggest competitors. Gaining a content producer with a track record of developing hits would allow Disney or Comcast to better compete with the tech giants.
Whoever prevails would also get hold of FX, the home of highly regarded TV shows like “The Americans” and “American Crime Story,” as well as National Geographic. Neither channel is a huge moneymaker, but extra content to push onto streaming platforms could still be valuable.
Regional sports networks
Fox owns 22 regional sports networks, which focus on sports in markets like Florida, the Carolinas and Ohio. Both Disney and Comcast have sports operations that would mesh well with those properties.
• Disney owns ESPN. Combining it with Fox’s regional sports networks would create a colossus. It could also prove attractive enough to viewers to help stem the subscriber losses that ESPN has suffered in recent years as a result of cord cutting.
• Comcast controls both NBC Sports, which owns the U.S. rights to the Olympics and “Sunday Night Football,” as well as nine regional sports networks. Fox’s regional networks would round out its coverage.
This is actually one of the areas that could pose antitrust issues for either suitor. That’s why both Disney and Comcast have offered to sell as many of Fox’s regional sports networks as required to assuage the concerns of antitrust regulators.
A stake in Hulu
Fox owns a 30 percent stake in the online video service. Both Disney and Comcast each also own a stake of the same size. That means either would gain control of Hulu as part of a deal. While Hulu is no Netflix, it remains a formidable platform, with original content like “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Though both suitors are working on their own online streaming platforms, having control of another popular service couldn’t hurt. As Steve Burke, the head of NBCUniversal, said on Comcast’s analyst call on Wednesday, “We think Hulu is a wonderful asset.”
Both Disney and Comcast make most of their money in the United States, so the promise of finding sales growth in overseas markets is alluring. That makes Fox’s international operations some of the most valuable assets up for sale.
One is the company’s 39 percent stake in Sky, the European satellite and broadband internet provider, which is already the subject of a bidding war between Comcast and Fox (and, by dint of its bid to buy Fox, Disney, too).
Here’s what DealBook wrote about the attraction of Sky last week:
Based in London, the broadcaster and internet service provider has 23 million customers in five countries, and it owns valuable broadcasting rights to English Premier League games, Formula One races and other sporting events. It also produces its own entertainment programs and has a streaming service, Now TV.
The other is Star, one of India’s biggest broadcasters, which operates 60 channels and the mobile streaming service Hotstar. Neither Comcast nor Disney has a meaningful presence in the fast-growing India market. Owning one of the country’s top content creators and distributors would give either company both a wealth of locally produced content and platforms on which to provide their other movies and TV shows.