North America

Disney buys large chunk of Murdoch's 21st Century Fox

Rupert Murdoch has spoken about selling the entertainment arm of his media empire to Disney, for a reported $US52.4 billion ($A73.4 billion) price tag.

Disney is buying a large part of the Murdoch family's 21st Century Fox for about $US52.4 billion ($A73.4 billion) in stock, including film and television studios and cable and international TV businesses, as it tries to meet competition from technology companies in the entertainment business.

The deal gives Disney film businesses including Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000, which together are the homes of Avatar, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool.

On the television side, Disney will get Twentieth Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox21, with shows including The Simpsons and Modern Family.

Rupert Murdoch spoke on Sky News about market disruption in the television industry and how selling off assets will see Fox return to its core.

"I think this is returning to our roots," Mr Murdoch said.

"Which is news and sports. And the changing way people watch television these days. The news is real. Sports, soccer is huge," he added when referencing what viewers demand on television.

"But the series, people watch them at the time you put them up, but a lot them, they stack them and watch them a week later, another night or a year later they may watch a whole series over a weekend.

"So then you've got huge companies going into this area now like Amazon, Facebook, Apple. And Netflix of course spending fortunes making scripted programs.

21st Century Fox shareholders will receive 0.2745 Disney shares for each share they own. The transaction also includes approximately $US13.7 billion in debt.

Both companies' boards have approved the deal. It still needs approval from Disney and 21st Century Fox shareholders.

Before the buyout, 21st Century Fox will separate the Fox Broadcasting network and stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network into a newly listed company that will be spun off to its shareholders.

Mr Murdoch said the deal evolved after a meeting at his winery with his friend and Chief Executive Officer of Disney Bob Iger.

"This started with Bob Iger, a friend of mine, sitting at my winery one evening, having a couple of glasses, and just talking about our businesses and the industry generally. The forces of disruption that were happening," Mr Murdoch said.

"And that was all and then he rang me back a couple of weeks later. He said: 'look, let's have this conversation a bit more.'

"That's only two months ago."

That Rupert Murdoch and his sons were willing to sell off much of the business that has been built up over decades came as a shock to the entertainment industry.

As consumers spend more time online, TV's share of US ad spending is shrinking.

Murdoch built 21st Century Fox and News Corp out of an inheritance from his father in Australia. He bought a string of papers there, in the UK and the US, building an influential platform for his views.

Murdoch has ostensibly already handed the reins over to a new generation at Fox. His son James is chief executive, while his other son, Lachlan, like Rupert, has the title of executive chairman.

There is speculation that the Murdochs would want to recombine what's the slimmed-down Fox with News Corp.

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