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Disney-Fox merger approved by Justice Department

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Jun 27, 2018, 1:17 PM EDT

The seemingly unending saga of which media giant will acquire large swaths of 21st Century Fox’s assets has just crossed an important legal hurdle.

The Department of Justice has approved Disney’s bid (and not that of the other suitor, Comcast) for the company’s programming and content library, with the caveat that the regional sports networks can’t come along for the ride. (Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns SYFY WIRE.)

Disney owns genre juggernauts like Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and Pixar, while Fox holds the rights to franchises like X-Men, Deadpool, and Avatar.

If things keep going Disney’s way, Fox’s assets won’t be split up among anyone. But according to Deadline, this isn’t a total go-ahead (as other regulators will need to give a thumbs-up), but more a putting of the ball in Comcast’s court.

This is just one step closer to a done deal, which Comcast is reportedly making moves in order to echo. The approval comes in the wake of the AT&T-Time Warner decision that opened the floodgates for large-scale mergers between industry-adjacent companies.

In an SEC filing last week, Disney said it would be willing to divest 21st Century Fox’s regional sports networks (and therefore acquiesce to the demands set forth by the Justice Department) if it meant winning approval, and thus the bid.

It remains to be seen if Comcast, which is reportedly rounding up funding should the bidding war continue to escalate, will respond to this approval and vie for its own. With antitrust approval for both companies, the playing field will again be even — but for now, Disney could have the upper hand in this financial battle.