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National Entertainment

Disney closes $71B deal for Fox entertainment assets

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  • Disney has closed its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business, putting “Cinderella,” ”The Simpsons,” ”Star Wars” and “Dr. Strange” under one corporate roof.

    The deal is likely to shake up the media landscape. Among other things, it paves the way for Disney to launch its streaming service, Disney Plus, due out later this year. It will also likely lead to layoffs in the thousands, thanks to duplication in Fox and Disney film-production staff.

    By buying the studios behind “The Simpsons” and X-Men, Disney aims to better compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers’ attention – and dollars.

    Disney needs compelling TV shows and movies to persuade viewers to sign up and pay for yet another streaming service. It already has classic Disney cartoons, “Star Wars,” Pixar, the Muppets and some of the Marvel characters. With Fox, Disney could add Marvel’s X-Men and Deadpool, along with programs shown on such Fox channels as FX Networks and National Geographic. Fox’s productions also include “The Americans,” ”This Is Us” and “Modern Family.”

    The deal helps Disney further control TV shows and movies from start to finish – from creating the programs to distributing them though television channels, movie theatres, streaming services and other ways people watch entertainment. Disney would get valuable data on customers and their entertainment-viewing habits, which it can then use to sell advertising.

    Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an earnings call in February that Disney Plus and other direct-to-consumer businesses are Disney’s “No. 1 priority.”

    Cable and telecom companies have been buying the companies that make TV shows and movies to compete in a changing media landscape. Although internet providers like AT&T and Comcast directly control their customers’ access to the internet in a way that Amazon, YouTube and Netflix do not, they still face threats as those streaming services gain in popularity.

    AT&T bought Time Warner last year for $81 billion and has already launched its own streaming service, Watch TV, with Time Warner channels such as TBS and TNT, among other networks, for $15 a month.

    In addition to boosting the Disney streaming service, expected to debut next year, the deal paves the way for Marvel’s X-Men and the Avengers to reunite in future movies. Though Disney owns Marvel Studios, some characters including the X-Men had already been licensed to Fox.

    Disney also gets a controlling stake in the existing streaming service Hulu, which it plans to keep operating as a home for more general programming. Family-friendly shows and movies will head to Disney Plus.

    No pricing has been disclosed for Disney Plus. The streaming service will feature five categories of material: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Disney charges $5 a month for ESPN Plus, a service that offers programming distinct from the ESPN cable channel.

    Meanwhile, Fox Corp. — the parts of 21st Century Fox that are not part of the deal, including Fox News, Fox Sports and Fox Broadcasting — started trading on the Nasdaq under the “FOX” and “FOXA” tickers on Tuesday.

    Mae Anderson, The Associated Press


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    Loughlin, Giannulli plead not guilty in college scam

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  • BOSTON — Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are pleading not guilty to charges they took part in the sweeping college admissions bribery scam, according to court documents filed Monday.

    Loughlin and Giannulli said they are waiving their right to appear in Boston federal court for their arraignment and plead not guilty to the two charges against them. The judge must approve their request for a waiver to appear.

    The couple is charged with paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though neither is a rower.

    Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on the sitcom “Full House,” and Giannulli haven’t publicly addressed the allegations against them.

    They are among 50 people charged in the nationwide scam, which authorities say also involved rigging college entrance exam scores.

    It’s the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. The scandal embroiled elite universities across the country and laid bare the lengths to which status-seeking parents will go to secure their children a coveted spot.

    The couple and more than a dozen other parents were hit last week with a money laundering conspiracy charge on top of the mail fraud conspiracy charge they were already facing. Several other indicted parents have also filed court documents entering not guilty pleas.

    Fellow actress Felicity Huffman, who starred in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and 12 other parents have agreed to plead guilty . Huffman is scheduled to appear in Boston on May 21 to enter her plea.

    Rick Singer, the consultant at the centre of the scheme, pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy on March 12, the same day the allegations against the parents and coaches were made public in the so-called Operations Varsity Blues investigation.

    Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press



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    National Entertainment

    Guess who’s moving?Burton Cummings complained of noise from dance studio

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  • MOOSE JAW, Sask. — A Saskatchewan fitness studio is moving after multiple noise complaints from Canadian rock legend Burton Cummings.

    Kyra Klassen, who owns Dance Fitness with Kyra in downtown Moose Jaw, says she’s ready for a fresh start and the studio is changing locations May 1.

    “It’s disappointing it had to escalate to this. However, we are super thankful and feel blessed by the outpouring of support from our community,” Klassen said in a message Friday.

    “We are excited to be able to move forward and get back to doing what we love to do: serving the fitness needs of Moose Jaw and area.”

    Klassen said she moved into the mixed-use building nearly one year ago. The Guess Who singer lives in a neighbouring residential building.

    There were no problems for the first five months, but then Klassen said she started to get messages, complaints and visits from Cummings himself.

    Klassen has said she worked with her landlord to add soundproofing to the studio and didn’t think she was breaking any laws.

    Police eventually laid six noise bylaw charges. She is to appear in court April 18.

    The dispute also led city council to look at zoning in the area. During a council meeting March 11, a motion was unanimously approved to prepare a report re-evaluating how business licences are issued in areas of the city’s commercial district where there are also residential properties.

    A manager for Cummings has said the musician had no comment on the situation.

    Klassen said she was shocked the dispute went so far. To keep everyone’s best interest at heart, she realized she couldn’t share the land with the singer.

    “We are moving and super excited about it,” she said.

    “Moving forward and starting fresh!”

    Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


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