Judge clears AT&T takeover of Time Warner

Brian Roberts

CREDIT Mark Lennihan AP REX Shutterstock

The victor of the Comcast-Disney showdown would get Fox's movie studio, which is responsible for franchises like "Avatar" and "X-Men", along with Fox's regional sports networks and cable channels like FX and National Geographic. Comcast is backing a dump truck of cash up to 21st Century Fox's doorstep, besting Disney's previous offer to buy the company.

21st Century Fox originally rejected the $60 billion Comcast offer due to concerns that the federal government might block such a deal.

A federal juge ruled on Tuesday that AT&T can proceed with its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

However, part of the appeal of the Disney deal to the Murdoch family was its ability to make them influential Disney shareholders, with 21st Century Fox Chief Executive James Murdoch (son of Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch) potentially inheriting a high position at Disney if the deal is completed.

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If successful, the Comcast bid could dash many fans' dreams of one day seeing character reunions and crossovers from Marvel film franchises that have long separated under Disney and Fox's competing interests.

Announced in October 2016, the deal was quickly denounced by Donald Trump, who as a candidate and later as president has been critical of Time Warner's CNN and its coverage. Even worse for the company, Disney's bid is said to be all-stock, which means that if the shares fall as a result of the court's decision, Disney's bid may be even less attractive.

It became possible when Rupert Murdoch, 87, and his son chose to slim down the media empire, leaving them with a "New Fox" that includes the Fox News Channel, the Fox broadcast network and sports cable operations.

"We are disappointed with the Court's decision today", a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement. Disney previously agreed to pay $US52.4 billion ($69 billion) for the media company, and that offer was entirely in stock.

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The Comcast offer sets the stage for a high-stakes bidding war between two of the biggest players in media and telecom. A big potential barrier between a Comcast acquisition of Fox's assets, though, would have been getting past government regulators. "Together, AT&T and Time Warner concluded that both companies could stop "chasing taillights" and catch up with the competition".

This follows yesterday's US court approval of the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, which was widely expected to lead Comcast to make a new bid for Fox and, in the long-term, set the stage for broader consolidation between ISPs and media companies.

For months AT&T efforts to merge with Time Warner have been held up by the Department of Justice efforts to block the merger.

"We are highly confident in our ability to finance the transaction, and our offer includes no financing-related conditions", Roberts said.

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