European authorities have approved Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox assets, with conditions attached. The European Commission said that Disney had agreed to offload it’s A&E channels in Europe to alleviate concerns that the Fox deal would eliminate competition in the realm of factual channels.
Through its A&E joint venture with Hearst, Disney has stakes in the History, H2, Crime & Investigation, Blaze and Lifetime channels. The Fox assets it’s acquiring include the National Geographic family of channels, which offer a similar lineup of factual and factual-entertainment fare.
Disney’s pledges to ditch the A&E channels “fully remove the overlap between Disney’s and Fox’s activities in the wholesale supply of factual channels in the EEA,” the commission said in a statement, referring to the European Economic Area, which encompasses 31 countries.
As major studios, Fox and Disney have large output deals with broadcasters and pay-TV platforms throughout Europe. But European antitrust authorities found no competition issues in terms of the production and distribution of movies, or licensing of film and TV shows.
The European Commission concluded “that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns.” It added: “The commission’s decision is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments.”
The Disney-Fox deal is expected to close in the first half of 2019. Disney will take control of a raft of Fox assets, including Fox’s 50% stake in Endemol Shine after sale of the production group stalled, but not the History, Lifetime and the other A&E channels in Europe.
Disney will remain a joint venture partner in A&E elsewhere.
In a statement it said: “We are gratified by the decision of the European Commission to clear the transaction with the sole remedial measure being the divesting of our interests in Europe of the History, H2, Crime + Investigation, Blaze and Lifetime channels. Disney will continue to be a 50% owner of A&E apart from the companies operating these channels in Europe. We continue to pursue clearance as quickly as possible in the jurisdictions that remain.”