BURBANK, Calif., July 23 -- Walt Disney Co. said Monday it has reached an agreement to acquire Fox Family Worldwide from News Corp. and Saban Entertainment in a mega deal valued $5.3 billion.
The deal, which consists of $3 billion in cash plus the assumption of $2.3 billion in debt, is expected to close in three to four months, subject to antitrust approvals both in and outside the United States.
When completed, the Fox Family Channel, which currently reaches approximately 81 million cable and satellite television subscribers throughout the United States, will be renamed ABC Family.
Disney also agreed to acquire a 76 percent ownership interest in Fox Kids Europe, which reaches more than 24 million subscribers across Europe and will eventually be recast under the Disney brand.
The deal also calls for Disney to acquire Fox Kids channels in Latin America -- currently seen by approximately 10 million subscribers -- and the Saban Library and Entertainment Productions business, with its more than 6,500 episodes of animated and live-action children's and family-friendly programming.
"This acquisition strengthens our company's worldwide business of family entertainment," said Disney Chairman and CEO Michael D. Eisner.
"The Family Channel and Fox Kids are unique assets that are particularly well suited to be a part of The Walt Disney Company. The Fox Family Channel is one of the few fully distributed, stand-alone channels and gives us a platform for launching ABC Family and strengthening our position as the leading provider of family television programming.
"In creating a new and vibrant family-oriented channel, we also will use the strong programs and brands from ABC and ESPN, as well as Disney-branded services and content from the unparalleled Disney libraries," he said. "Using the combined resources of ABC Television and the ABC Cable Networks Group, ABC Family will bring broadcast and cable to a new level of integration, enabling our ABC and cable affiliates to offer viewers new and exciting programming options."
Robert A. Iger, Disney President and COO said, "The acquisition of the Fox Kids international channels strengthens our presence in important markets in Europe and Latin America and enhances our vast potential for growth outside the United States. They will provide us with a vehicle for further distributing our programming and brands internationally on basic cable."
"These channels will benefit greatly from a combination of Saban and Disney programming. They will be operated in close cooperation with our 14 international Disney Channels and more than 90 branded time slots on broadcast television, which air in 42 countries around the world and collectively reach 600 million viewers per month. We believe our newly acquired international services will grow far beyond their current distribution levels and their impact on the rest of our international businesses, by virtue of this enhanced reach, will be profound," Iger added.
The Fox Kids international channels include 14 channels covering 74 countries in 18 languages throughout Europe, Latin America and Australia, for a total of 35 million subscribers.
Included in the arrangement is the Saban Library, containing more than 6,500 episodes featuring such popular kids' fare as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Digimon, Beetleborgs and Spiderman, as well as serials and live-action films.
The deal provides Disney with a 76 percent interest in Fox Kids Europe; the remaining 24 percent is publicly traded on the Amsterdam stock exchange. Fox Kids Europe will continue to be headed by Ynon Kreiz, who has served as its chairman and CEO since 1999.
The transaction also includes the television rights to Major League Baseball games two nights a week during the regular season, plus 8 to 11 first-round playoff games.
The ABC Family will be managed collaboratively between the ABC Television Network and the ABC Cable Networks Group.
The international channels will report to the ABC Cable Networks Group, which also has responsibility for the international Disney Channels, including Toon Disney and Playhouse Disney.
ABC Family will continue to broadcast the 700 Club and other programs produced by the Christian Broadcast Network, headed by Pat Robertson.
The transaction does not include the Fox Kids' domestic programming block currently aired on the Fox broadcast network.