NEW YORK - The Walt Disney Company and News Corp. today announced the formation of a sweeping new entertainment and news venture that will provide the highest quality journalism, political coverage, and sports reporting to a global audience.
The joint venture, which combines the two companies' ABC and FOX Entertainment Group properties, will give Disney and News Corp. unparalleled resources in today's digital era.
Under the deal, Disney will become responsible for all feature films and will take over Twentieth Century Fox and Fox Studios, while News Corp. will become responsible for cable and broadcast television.
Executives for Disney and News Corp. confirmed that several name changes are on the way, including the rebranding of ABC, the nation's most watched television network.
Anne Sweeney, President of Disney-ABC Television Group, said the name change to Fox better reflects the network's values.
"Since the debut of Fox News Channel in 1996, Roger Ailes and John Moody have set the standard for a fair and balanced, professional newsgathering operation," Sweeney said.
"We realized as we were putting together the April 16th Democratic presidential debate that we had a unique opportunity to host a Fox-style event since CNN and MSNBC have hosted nearly all of the other debates so far," added ABC News President David Westin. "Our experience with the Pennsylvania debate is proof that Americans are yearning for a more honest dialogue between the candidates."
"Fox's unbiased, thoughtful coverage is legendary in the industry. We're excited to bring cable's best to network television."
Peter Chernin, President and Chief Operating Officer for Fox Entertainment Group, predicted that the new Fox network would increase viewership.
"It's a refreshingly new identity," Chernin noted. "Not only does the Fox name better reflect the real values at ABC, but it will stand out from the alphabet soup competition. The new Fox truly will be the most powerful name in news!"
Sweeney and Chernin confirmed that the joint venture will seek the adoption of new rules by the FCC that will permit it to keep control of each of the television stations currently owned by Disney and News Corp.
The existing Fox Broadcasting Network will be renamed to Fox Youth as ABC takes the Fox name. The new Fox network will inherit Fox News Channel's branding and culture of "We Report, You Decide."
Charles Gibson will continue to host the network's weeknight newscast, which will be renamed to "Fox World News Tonight". The network has also named Brit Hume as its weekend host and disclosed that Sean Hannity will coanchor primetime elections coverage with Gibson.
"Fox World News Tonight" will also feature regular commentary from Bill O'Reilly and a greater number of feature reports from John Stossel.
Additionally, Greta Van Susteren will join Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, among other changes.
Fox Sports, meanwhile, will be folded into ESPN.
Disney and News Corp. also plan to leverage the power of their theme park and online holdings, including Disneyland Resort and MySpace, in future cross promotions.
Disney and News Corp. plan to complete the deal later this year.