Disney's $71.3 billion takeover of Fox gets Justice Department's OK

21st Century Fox thinks Comcast bid is riskier than Disney

Walt Disney Co. won USA antitrust approval for its $71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox Inc.'s entertainment assets, raising hurdles for a potential rival bid from Comcast Corp.

"American consumers have benefitted from head-to-head competition between Disney and Fox's cable sports programming that ultimately has prevented cable television subscription prices from rising even higher", said assistant attorney general in competition, Makan Delrahim.

Disney already owns the ABC broadcast television network, sports broadcasting group ESPN and major Hollywood film studios along with theme parks around the world.

According to the Department's complaint, Disney and Fox compete to sell cable sports programming to MVPDs in various local markets across the United States.

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Fox has the option to consider other offers and Comcast could raise its bid.

It's the latest chapter in a story that began in December, when Disney bid $52 billion in stock for 21st Century Fox's movie studios, a stake in the streaming service Hulu, cable TV channels such as FX, and global TV properties. Nevertheless, Disney being a smaller media conglomerate than Comcast-outside of the movie business-made them a friendlier alternative for Fox, hence why Murdoch originally approached Disney first a year ago.

If the bidding reaches a high enough level - say, $90 billion - the company may go to private equity firms or other backers for help, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier.

The deal is of particular interest to movie fans, as Fox holds the rights to many popular Marvel characters, most notably the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

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Disney's agreement with the government could be a setback for Comcast, which has yet to respond to Disney's latest offer for Fox, unveiled last week.

Rupert Murdoch, whose family controls 17 percent of Fox shares, is believed to heavily prefer the Disney deal because of the stock factor, which would give him a position in the entertainment giant as well as limit, if not eliminate, his tax liability.

Included in the planned sale is Fox's 39 percent stake in the British pay TV operator Sky.

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