Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox assets, including Hulu stake

It’s official: Disney has finalized an agreement to buy most of 21st Century Fox. The all-stock deal will clock in at $52.4 billion. A slew of new properties are included in the acquisition, including 21st Century Fox’s film titles and studio, and media brands such as National Geographic and FX Networks. The deal grants Disney a slew of new movie and TV properties just as it’s gearing up to launch its own streaming service in 2019. (Simply put, Netflix is about to have a formidable competitor on its hands.) Disney will also gain a 50% stake in Endemol Shine Group, a 39% stake in the European satellite broadcaster Sky, and control of the Star India satellite service.

One of the most fascinating (and messy) aspects of the Disney/Fox acquisition: Disney will gain Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu. And since Disney already has its own 30% stake, it will gain majority ownership of the service. But things aren’t all that simple: Hulu was initially conceived as a pure joint venture between Fox, Disney, and Comcast/NBCU (with Time Warner later gaining a 10% stake). And under the terms of the initial JV agreement, it will be difficult for Disney to make any major structural changes to the company without NBCU’s approval. For the moment, it’s not 100 percent clear what changes Disney might want to make to the service. (Disney CEO Bob Iger has only said that he intends to use Hulu as a platform for more “adult-oriented product” from the soon-to-be-acquired Fox assets.) Some analysts have speculated that Disney may try to buy out all outstanding shares in Hulu. But others, like BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield, have speculated that Disney may grow exasperated with the complexity of operating the service, and sell off its stake to Comcast. It’s all hypothetical for the time being, and it’ll likely be at least a year before the deal closes.

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