Their on-again/off-again courtship has finally ended in marriage! Well, maybe. At the very least, Bob Iger has popped the question and Rupert Murdoch is all like “OMG yes!” with tears streaming down his face. All that remains to be seen is whether this merger gains the approval of the parents … I mean, passes the regulatory review that is the only thing standing in the way of this corporate behemoth in the making.
This morning the details of The Walt Disney Co.’s historic acquisition of 21st Century Fox have been revealed. For the cool price of $52.4 billion (all in stocks), the Mouse House is looking to gobble up key portions of the Fox portfolio — though, crucially, not ALL of them. The FOX broadcast network, along with Fox News, Fox Business, and the national Fox Sports channels, would be spun off into a new Fox company along with the 50-acre 20th Century Fox lot in Century City. However, Disney will gain the film studio, along with the cable channels (including FX, National Geographic, as well as regional sports and a whole slew of international channels). The acquisition would also include Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu, giving Disney the majority share in the streaming service (when combined with Disney’s own 30% stake). It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out down the road, since the remaining stake in Hulu is controlled by Comcast and Time Warner.
The gargantuan deal makes sense for Disney, who is looking to expand into its own direct-to-consumer streaming business and will need more content in its pipeline. Simply adding the Fox cable channels to their portfolio gives them some much-needed diversity in their portfolio, as their own channels are largely targeted at kids. And at a time when the old players in Hollywood are facing increased competition from Facebook, Google, and other new giants, this may be a sign that it’s time to go big or go home. In order to oversee the transition of all these assets, Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger has extended his own contract through 2021. But the questions of which Murdoch spawn will maintain their toe-holds in the new empire are far less interesting than the speculation about what this will mean for the creative properties involved.
Namely: Marvel. That’s right, this means that the X-Men and the Fantastic Four would be back under the same film studio roof as the Avengers (Spider-man, of course, is still controlled by Sony even if Disney has visitation rights). When Kevin Feige recently teased the next 20 films in the Marvel pipeline, do you think this was a part of those unrevealed plans?
Another interesting tidbit is that by acquiring Fox, Disney is gaining the last piece of the Star Wars pie it was missing — the rights to the first film, Star Wars: A New Hope.
Variety has a great run down of all the details and implications of this merger, which involve numerous overseas interests as well. Disney expects the regulatory review to take up to 18 months, so this isn’t going to be something we’ll see the effects from immediately. But if it all goes through, we may be facing a merry Mickey future. On the flip side, according to Vulture, the Fox broadcast network — home of The Simpsons and Empire — may ultimately cease to exist in its current form, as it unloads scripted programming in favor of cheaper-to-produce reality shows, talk shows, sports, and news.