According to industry trade reports, The Walt Disney Company is engaging in talks to divest its interest in a number of A+E-owned channels in Europe as part of its Fox acquisition.
Today (November 14), Variety first reported that Disney is currently in talks with Hearst, its partner in the network group joint venture, to sell off its interest in five European channels that are under the A+E umbrella.
Last week, the European Commission approved Disney’s acquisition of parts of Fox, subject to certain conditions. The Commission is the institution responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the European Union.
In its ruling, the Commission found that the Disney-Fox merger would raise no competition concerns with regards to distribution of content for home entertainment and licensing of films and other TV content.
It did find, however, that in the wholesale supply of TV channels, the transaction would eliminate competition between two strong suppliers of “factual channels” in several of the European Economic Area’s (EEA) member states.
According to the Commission’s report, Disney agreed to divest its interest in all factual channels it controls in the EEA. Those channels are History, H2, Crime & Investigation, Blaze and Lifetime channels, all currently controlled by A+E Television Networks — the joint venture between Disney and Hearst.
Selling all interest to Hearst or another party would remove the overlap between Disney and Fox’s activities in the wholesale of factual channels in the region and bring Disney into full compliance with its commitments to the Commission. However, as Deadline reports, other bidders may emerge in the process. Sky, for example, is a joint venture partner in A+E Networks UK.
Disney had not yet responded to a request for comment at publication time.
(With files from Barry Walsh. Pictured: Walt Disney Studios, Burbank, from Wikipedia)