Marvel Deal Could Boost Disney XD Slate

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The Walt Disney Co.'s $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment was mostly skewed toward the film studio -- which has had recent blockbuster hits like Iron Man, The X-Men and Spider-Man 3 -- but the television unit, especially its Disney XD channel, is also expected to receive some benefit from the deal.
On a conference call with analysts Monday, Disney CEO Robert Iger said that the two companies are still working out the particulars of the merger, but that Disney XD -- the recently rebranded Toon Disney -- represents one of the biggest opportunities for the merger. Iger said that Disney XD currently airs about 20 hours per week of Marvel character productions and that could expand both domestically and internationally.
"This is a channel that is aimed primarily at boys and one we are really excited about not just because of its success recently but because of its reach," Iger said on the conference call. "We have great reach in the United States and as we rebrand our global family channels to Disney XD, the reach will grow even more. We actually have been looking to license more Marvel content for that channel in the future and this will provide a great opportunity to do that. At the same time, that kind of reach from a distribution perspective gives us that ability to expose these characters to people all over the word in a way that Marvel was only able to get in the past by going to a third party."
According to the deal, Marvel Entertainment shareholders will receive $30 in cash and 0.745 shares of Disney stock for each share they own. The deal is valued at about $50 per share, and based on Marvel's closing price of $38.65 per share on Aug. 28, represents a 29% premium. In contrast, Disney's $7.4 billion acquisition of animation giant Pixar in 2006 represented about a 4% premium.
Marvel shares soared on news of the deal, rising 25.3% ($9.79 per share) to $48.44 each in afternoon trading. Disney shares were down 88 cents each (3.3%) to $25.96 each on Monday afternoon.
Once the deal closes, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel, including its more than 5,000 characters. Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties.