Television

Disney expected to announce 21 CF buyout tomorrow: media reports

James Murdoch

MUMBAI: The Mouse House is closing in on the Fox.  Media reports have emerged that Disney’s bid to acquire the Murdoch-owned 21st Century Fox (21 CF Fox) group’s entertainment assets is near closure. The price being talked about is anywhere between $60 billion and $68 billion and an announcement is expected by tomorrow–Thursday, the media reports say.

The deal being worked out will see Disney pocketing 20th Century Fox movie and television studios; 22 regional cable networks dedicated to sports; Fox’s stake in the Hulu streaming service; cable networks such as FX and National Geographic; and a stake in UK-based satellite TV major Sky and the Indian operations of its Asian jewel Star India, which is expected to have an EBITDA of $1 billion by 2020. Star India alone had been valued at between $14 billion in 2016 by local brokerage house Edelweiss.

Since then, Star India has acquired the rights to the BCCI’s prized T-20 cricket league- the Indian Premier League (IPL)-for the next five years as well as expanded its bouquet of channels in regional languages and launched free-to-air channel Star Bharat along with a slew of other new initiatives. This apart, its OTT platform, Hotstar, has also scaled up in customer base, apart from making test launches in Canada and the US with local product and paid pricing.

“The valuation has most likely moved further northward. We estimate it to be around $20 billion or more now,” says an investment analyst, refusing to be identified. Newspaper reports have, however, put a price of around $13.7 billion dollars on Fox Networks Group International cable channels - which includes Star India, channels in Brazil, Mexico and other Latin American nations, which probably means the Indian bouquets valuation could be in the $10 billion range.

Acquiring Star India will give Disney the much needed scale in one of the more promising markets in the world. It acquired local niche broadcast-cum-film and TV production network UTV in 2012 and has a healthy licensing and merchandising business in India but it would surely like more. The Star India acquisition-when it goes through-will give Disney all that and plenty more.

Industry observers have been a little puzzled by the sudden decision by the Murdochs to exit entertainment and just continue to control the relatively smaller and leaner Fox broadcast network, Fox News and Fox Sports.

“The acquisition-if it does happen-will lead to seismic changes in the media and entertainment world globally,” says a media commentator. “It heralds an era wherein the only thing that is certain is the uncertainty that has become the hallmark of the entertainment economy. Today’s media giants can become tomorrow’s minnows, thanks to the changes in the way consumers are consuming entertainment and technological leaps. Apple, the telcos and the FANGs look set to become the leaders tomorrow.”

Also Read:  Comment: The rise and rise of Uday Shankar

James Murdoch could be next Disney CEO: FT

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