Ever since we learned that Disney was in the process of buying Fox, I think I’ve said something to the effect of “take this with a grain of salt” every time I’ve written a piece dealing with the potential fallout of the sale. After all, even assuming the deal passes regulatory muster, we’re still looking at a process that can take a year or more to complete, and longer still for the end result of that process to reach cinemas and TV screens. There’s a lot we don’t know and a lot that can change in that amount of time, not to mention the ever-present possibility that the deal could somehow fall through altogether.
But in all my efforts to maintain a healthy sense of skepticism, even I didn’t see this coming.
Comcast may be poised to enter the fray, turning Disney’s relatively straightforward purchase of Fox’s assets into a full-blown bidding war. All of this, according to a report by CNBC, stems from a pending lawsuit by the Justice Department to block the pending merger between AT&T and Time Warner. Essentially, the outcome of this case will be something of a regulatory bellwether for the sorts of mergers that will be permitted under the Trump administration.
Once the suit is resolved and the companies involved finally have a sense of what they can get away with, their strategies will come into focus. Assuming the AT&T/Time Warner merger goes through, CNBC cites “people familiar with the matter” who say that Comcast (which previously purchased NBC Universal) is considering a competing bid for Fox. Of course, Disney is already preparing itself for just such an eventuality, and there’s no telling how such a bidding war may play out. And in the end, there would still be no guarantee that the merger would be permitted (though Republican administrations tend to be fairly business-friendly, so I certainly wouldn’t rule it out).
In either case, Time Warner’s suit against the Justice Department will be heard on March 19, 2018, in the United States District Court for Washington D.C.. The judge in the case, Richard Leon, previously signed off on the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal, though not without expressing a measure of criticism. Even if Judge Leon blocks this merger, Warner would still have the option of appealing the cast to the Supreme Court. If things proceed along those lines, the current merger-happy media landscape may well find itself in limbo well into 2019.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on this story as it develops.