REUTERS: Walt Disney Co is in the lead to acquire much of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's media empire, though rival suitor Comcast Corp remains in contention, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
The Murdoch family, which controls Fox, prefers a deal with Disney because it would rather be paid in Disney than Comcast stock, and expects a potential deal with Disney to be cleared by U.S. antitrust regulators more easily, one of the sources said.
However, no deal between Disney and Fox is imminent and several issues have yet to be fully negotiated, the sources said.
CNBC had reported earlier on Tuesday that a deal for Disney to buy Fox's movie studio and television production assets for more than US$60 billion could come as early as next week.
The Reuters sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. Fox declined to comment, while Disney and Comcast did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Fox shares rose 3.2 percent in morning trade, while Disney fell 2 percent.
A deal with media mogul Rupert Murdoch's Fox will give Disney more shows and movies for television and online distribution at a time when companies such as Amazon.com Inc and Netflix Inc are spending billions to bulk up on programing.
It will also expand Disney's international reach and diversify its revenue as U.S. cable subscribers decline.
(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Additional reporting by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Munsif Vengattil; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Meredith Mazzilli)