Disney Held Talks With 21st Century Fox to Buy Most of Its Assets

A sign is pictured at a vehicle entrance to Fox Studios in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2014. Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc , the television and film company split off from News Corp last June, lowered its fiscal-year outlook on Thursday, blaming missed targets at its movie studio and weak broadcast network ratings. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

Walt Disney Co. held talks to buy 21st Century Fox Inc.’s movie studio and other assets, a person familiar with the matter said, a deal that would have given the entertainment giant control of another studio and TV networks across the world.

The two sides aren’t talking anymore, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Fox shares surged as much as 8.9 percent, and Disney rose as much as 2.4 percent after CNBC first reported on the discussions. Both companies declined to comment.

Disney would have acquired cable networks such as FX and National Geographic, as well as assets outside the U.S. including the Star cable network in India and a stake in the Sky Plc satellite service in Europe, the person said. Disney wouldn’t acquire Fox’s broadcast network, Fox News, local broadcast stations or sports programming, the person said.

The rise of online competitors Netflix, YouTube and Facebook has slowed the growth of the pay-TV business, and forced the companies that rely on it to explore new ways of getting bigger. Pay-TV distributors Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. have already completed multibillion-dollar deals, giving them greater leverage in negotiations for channels from programmers like Fox and Disney.

“There are legitimate synergies in combining these companies, in Disney becoming bigger,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group LLC. “The bigger question is what is Fox thinking? This is so far removed from anything they’ve ever indicated before.”

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SOURCE: Bloomberg, Lucas Shaw and Anousha Sakoui