Feds OK Disney's BAMTech Buy

The federal government has signed off on Disney's purchase of a majority stake in BAMTech, which it will use to launch a direct-to-cosumer ESPN-branded video streaming service next year.

Disney has been moving aggressively into the OTT space, including pulling its content from Netflixas it builds its own BAMTech-based OTT platform.

That okay from the feds for Disney's $1.58 billion purchase of an additional 42% stake in BAMTech came in the form of an early termination notice from the Federal Trade Commission, which means neither it nor Justice found any reason to block or seek conditions on the deal on antitrust grounds, so is ending its Hart Scott Rodino antitrust review early.

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Disney last year bought a 33% stake in BAMTech, the tech services and video streaming operation launched by Major League Baseball. That deal gave Disney an option to buy a majority stake, which it exercised last month.

“The media landscape is increasingly defined by direct relationships between content creators and consumers, and our control of BAMTech’s full array of innovative technology will give us the power to forge those connections, along with the flexibility to quickly adapt to shifts in the market,” Disney Chairman Bob Iger, said Aug. 9, when the deal was announced. "[D]irect-to-consumer services mark an entirely new growth strategy for the Company, one that takes advantage of the incredible opportunity that changing technology provides us to leverage the strength of our great brands.”

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The new OTT service will be home to 10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year, while a new Disney-branded OTT service, launching in 2019, will be the exclusive home in the U.S. for SVOD versions of new live action and animated films including the next installment of Toy Story and sequels to Frozen and Lion King, as well as original TV shows and short-form content.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.