June 27 (UPI) -- The Justice Department on Wednesday approved the Walt Disney Company's proposal to buy 21st Century Fox properties, but said the former must divest of regional sports networks.
The $71 billion sale would include 21st Century Fox's film and television studios, cable entertainment networks and international properties. Disney would assume $14 billion in Fox debt.
The Justice Department said that within 90 days of the sale, Disney would have to sell 22 Fox regional sports networks to a company or companies approved by the government.
"Today's settlement will ensure that sports programming competition is preserved in the local markets where Disney and Fox compete for cable and satellite distribution," Makan Delrahim, the head the Justice Department's antitrust division, said.
Under the agreement, the Fox Broadcasting Network and its stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Sports 1 and 2, the Big Ten Network and Fox's Hollywood film lot will spin off into a separate company, which is expected to have revenues totaling about $10 billion.
The approval likely complicates Comcast's competing $65 billion bid to purchase 21st Century Fox properties. Disney initially offered $52.4 billion to purchase the company but upped the bid after Comcast's.
"We are pleased that the DOJ concluded that, with the exception of the proposed acquisition of the Fox Sports Regional Networks, the transaction will not harm competition, and that we were able to resolve the limited potential concerns to position us to move forward with this exciting opportunity that will enable us to create even more compelling consumer experiences," Disney said.