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European Commission Clears Disney-Fox With Some Conditions

The European Commission, the chief regulatory body on the continent, has cleared the way for The Walt Disney Co.’s $71.3 billion purchase of certain 21st Century Fox assets, but is requiring that the combined company divest of some channels currently in partnership with A+E Networks.

The EC issued its approval of the deal on Nov. 6, adding that they had no antitrust concerns about the transaction, which would put Fox’s cable channels FX, FXX and National Geographic, movie and television production studio 20th Century Fox and other content assets under the Disney umbrella.

But the Commission said that it was concerned that the deal would “eliminate competition between two strong suppliers of factual channels,” mainly National Geographic and the History channels, to European Economic Area (EEA) member states. The EC defines factual channels as networks that mainly provide documentaries, drama and scientific-themed entertainment programming.

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The EC said Disney has committed to divest History, H2, Crime & Investigation, Blaze and Lifetime channels in Europe, which are currently controlled by A+E Television Networks, a joint venture between Disney and Hearst. The requirement would have no impact on the operation of the channels in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Disney agreed to purchase the Fox assets in July, and has said it hopes to close the deal by the end of the first half of 2019. The transaction has already received approval from the U.S. Department of Justice, which has required that Disney divest of Fox’s 22 regional sports networks within 90 days after the deal closes.