Published on .

July 23, 2001

By Wayne Friedman

LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Walt Disney Co., as expected, has bought the troubled Fox Family Worldwide for $3 billion in cash, and will assume $2.3 billion in debt, from Fox Family partners News Corp. and Saban Entertainment.

The move will enhance Disney's strong worldwide position with children's entertainment, as well as increase Disney's array of cable networks, which includes ownership in ESPN, A&E Networks, Lifetime, The Disney Channel and Toon Disney.

Ratings challenged
Fox Family Channel, which reaches 81 million U.S. cable households, has had a hard time building ratings and cementing a programming strategy. It will be renamed ABC Family.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., had been openly disappointed with Fox Family's low ratings and poor financial performance. The cash will give News Corp. financial resources to pursue a deal with General Motors Corp. for DirecTV.

ABC Family will be managed by the ABC Television Network and the ABC Cable Networks Group. The cable network will continue to broadcast programs produced by the Christian Broadcast Network, which is headed by Pat Robertson, the religious leader who formerly controlled the Family Channel before it was sold to Fox.

The deal does not include the Fox Kids Network, a programming block that airs on the Fox Broadcasting network.

Copyright July 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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