Disney Clears Foreign Hurdles

Disney's effort to acquire parts of Fox cleared hurdles abroad.

Two of the world’s biggest and most powerful media and entertainment firms, Disney and 21st Century Fox, had to overcome several regulatory obstacles to move ahead with a deal to sell much of Fox to Disney.

The United States, which essentially created the standards for antitrust law a century ago, signed off on the deal last year. But what seemed like a done deal in Hollywood and Washington, D.C., generated headlines with acronyms in Portuguese and Spanish, such as CADE and IFT. CADE stands in Portuguese for Administrative Council for Economic Defense, Brazil’s equivalent to the anti-trust division of the US Department of Justice. IFT is the Spanish acronym for the Federal Telecommunications Institute, the Mexican agency responsible for oversight of this case in that country.

The sticking point was potential concentration of power over football (soccer) television rights, because Disney already owns ESPN. Regulators in both Latin American countries would not allow Disney to own Fox’s sports channels as well, and demanded divestitures before giving the go-ahead. US regulators had already required Disney to auction off Fox’s22 regional sports channels. And European regulators had asked Disney to sell its 50% stake in the A&E Networks, which include the Lifetime and History channels, too. Now the firms are deep in the deal-making of divesting those assets.