Disney seals $71bn deal for 21st Century Fox as it prepares to take on Netflix

Disney has closed its $71bn (£54bn) acquisition of Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment business in a deal that unites franchises including Cinderella, The Simpsons and Star Wars under one corporate roof to create a media behemoth of unprecedented scale.

The Walt Disney Company closed its acquisition of 21st Century Fox shortly after midnight New York time on Wednesday.

As part of the deal, Disney will absorb the Fox film and TV studios, the FX networks, National Geographic and the Indian TV giant Star India in a huge boost to its content.

It plans to launch its new streaming service Disney Plus later this year as it challenges Netflix for future audience share.

Before the takeover, Disney already boasted a fearsome catalogue of content, including its classic cartoons, Star Wars and many of the Marvel characters.

After purchasing Fox, it will be able to add the likes of X-Men and Deadpool to its portfolio and take on Netflix and Amazon.

The deal also helps Disney further control TV shows and movies from start to finish – from creating the programmes to distributing them though television channels, cinemas, streaming services and other ways people watch entertainment. Disney would get valuable data on customers and their entertainment-viewing habits, which it can then use to sell advertising.

In a statement, Robert Iger, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company, hailed the move.

“This is an extraordinary and historic moment for us – one that will create significant long-term value for our company and our shareholders.

“Combining Disney’s and 21st Century Fox’s wealth of creative content and proven talent creates the pre-eminent global entertainment company, well-positioned to lead in an incredibly dynamic and transformative era.”

The move instantly cut the number of major Hollywood studios, ending the era of the “Big Six”. Warner Bros, Universal, Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures now make up a Big Five with Disney.

It also cast major doubt over the jobs of potentially thousands of workers, with experts predicting as many as 4,000 positions could be cut.

Murdoch, the billionaire former owner of executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, wrote a letter to employees two days before the takeover was finalised, thanking them for their work.

Some of Fox’s other properties, including its news and sports businesses, have been spun off into the newly formed Fox Corporation.

Disney also doubled its 30% stake in streaming service Hulu, making it by far the biggest stakeholder.


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