×

21st Century Fox Shares Soar on Report of Disney Sale Talks

Shares in 21st Century Fox soared 9% on Monday following a market-rattling report from CNBC that the Murdochs have held talks in recent weeks to sell a large portion of their media conglomerate to Disney.

CNBC’s David Faber reported that the sale talks have centered around the 20th Century Fox movie and TV production operations, the FX Networks and National Geographic TV cable groups as well as Fox’s enormous portfolio of international channels.

The Murdochs maintain tight control of 21st Century Fox, as well as the separate News Corp. entity, through Rupert Murdoch’s control of nearly 40% of the voting shares in Fox. The notion of Rupert Murdoch as a seller comes as a shock to media biz watchers, given his legacy as the mogul known for his empire building in the 1980s and ’90s and his voracious appetite for acquisitions. Rupert Murdoch has long been seen as the consummate buyer, never a seller.

The deal, as reported by CNBC, would leave Fox with the Fox Broadcasting Co. network, the Fox Television Stations unit and the Fox Sports and Fox News operations. Those carve-outs are no surprise as FCC rules bar one company from owning more than one of the Big Four broadcast networks. Disney already owns ABC. The combination of Fox Sports with Disney’s ESPN and Fox News with ABC News might also raise anti-trust hackles.

Fox’s stock price shot up more than 6% within a half-hour of the CNBC report, which hit around 1:30 p.m. ET. Fox shares were up 9% at closing to $26.62, which is still well shy of its 52-week high of $31.94. Disney shares gained 2% to close at $100.64.

Reps for Disney and 21st Century Fox did not return calls seeking comment.

Fox at present is in the midst of a prolonged regulatory review in the U.K. to buyout the remaining 61% in European satcaster Sky that it does not already own. Word of the Disney sale talks could indicate a lack of confidence among the Murdochs that the acquisition will pass muster with regulators who have long wrestled with Murdochs’ influence over U.K. media.

Earlier Monday, U.K. regulator Ofcom censured the Fox News operation for violating “impartiality rules” with primetime shows hosted by Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. Fox News was pulled off the air in the U.K. in August by Sky, citing its tiny audience. But the rebuke from Ofcom is seen as more evidence that regulators are taking a dim view of Fox’s full-fledged Sky takeover.

CNBC reported that in considering a sale to Disney, the Murdochs believe a smaller operation more focused on news and sports might carve out a more competitive niche.

At present, 21st Century Fox is still a heavyweight industry player but it is dwarfed in size by Comcast-NBCUniversal, Disney, and the pending AT&T-Time Warner union. CNBC reported the Murdochs are concerned that 21st Century Fox is unable to achieve the global scale that traditional media giants need to stay competitive with the tech giants that have been actively diving into content and distribution: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.

For Disney, the acquisition as reported would strengthen its market share in film — which is already considerable thanks to the Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm banners — and beef up its TV content production activity. Fox’s film and TV vault would also be a boon to the standalone entertainment streaming service that Disney plans to launch in 2019. Moreover, Fox has a much more significant presence in international TV than Disney through its portfolio of 300-plus channels across Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

Even if Fox’s Sky acquisition is ultimately nixed, Fox’s existing 39% interest in Sky would bolster Disney’s international TV footprint.

(Pictured: 21st Century Fox leaders Lachlan, Rupert and James Murdoch)

More Film

  • Pablo Guisa, Pablo Cruz, Enrique López

    Morbido, El Estudio Team on Massive Trans-Atlantic Genre Initiative (EXCLUSIVE)

    Trans-Atlantic Spanish-language production powerhouse El Estudio and Mexico’s Morbido Group have joined forces in the largest genre, horror and fantasy production initiative in the Spanish-speaking world. Feature films, series, remakes and reboots of classic IP and even unscripted programming are all part of the plan going forward for El Estudio and Morbido. Already, the companies [...]

  • Saudi Runaway

    Director Susanne Regina Maures on ‘Saudi Runaway’

    BERLIN —  Robert Montgomery’s “Lady in the Lake” posed the question of whether it’s possible to make a complete film from one POV and yet  create a true emotional connection with an audience if it doesn’t have a face to connect with. “Saudi Runaway” delivers a haunting POV experience via the hands of a woman, [...]

  • Abbas Kiarostami

    India’s Alliance Wraps Berlin Market With Abbas Kiarostami Package Deal (EXCLUSIVE)

    India’s Alliance Media & Entertainment is in the process of acquiring a library of works by late Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami for distribution in the Indian subcontinent from France’s MK2 Films. The deal covers 33 features, documentaries and shorts from Kiarostami’s oeuvre, including “Taste of Cherry,” “The Wind Will Carry Us” and “Where Is My [...]

  • Rachel Brosnahan25th Annual Screen Actors Guild

    Film News Roundup: Rachel Brosnahan Starring in Sci-Fi Movie 'Distant'

    In today’s film news roundup, Rachel Brosnahan will try science-fiction, documentaries about Herb Alpert and Sasha Joseph Neulinger find homes, and Cameron Boyce’s “Runt” gets a premiere. CASTING Rachel Brosnahan will star with Anthony Ramos in Amblin Partners’ upcoming comedic sci-fi film “Distant.” Will Speck and Josh Gordon will direct from Spenser Cohen’s script about [...]

  • Aldis Hodge Regina King

    Aldis Hodge Gushes Over Working With First-Time Film Director Regina King

    Regina King is on a roll. After winning an Oscar for “If Beale Street Could Talk” and starring as masked vigilante Sister Knight in HBO’s “Watchmen,” King is gearing up to make her film directing debut with “One Night in Miami.” Adapted by Kemp Powers from his play of the same name, the film dramatizes a [...]

  • Jon Berg

    Netflix Developing Female-Fronted Comedy Film With Jon Berg (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix is developing an untitled female-led comedy with producer Jon Berg, the former Warner Bros.’ co-president of production. The writing team of Jordan Roter (“The Tear Down,” “Camp Rules”) and Monica Corcoran Harel (New York Times, Marie Claire) has been attached to write the project. Netflix is keeping the logline under wraps. The project will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content