The Walt Disney Company announced Thursday that they will be acquiring major parts of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion in Fox stock. The acquisition includes Fox’s film and TV studios, cable and international TV businesses (including a 39 per cent stake in Sky News in the U.K.) and Fox’s stake in Hulu. The assets that will be left to Fox to spin off into a newly-listed company are Fox Broadcasting network, Fox News, Fox Business Network and the company’s sports channels. The two companies have been in talks since the summer, but this deal comes as somewhat of a surprise to a lot of people.
As for media, this expands the Disney umbrella again (remember when Leia became a Disney princess?). They now own virtually all the films produced by Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight and Fox 2000. So that brings to the Disney catalogue Avatar, X-Men, Deadpool, Fantastic Four and more. It also means new Disney TV in the form of This is Us, Modern Family and The Simpsons. The reasoning behind this huge acquisition is that Disney is looking to really dominate the streaming service game when they launch the private service they announced earlier this year to compete with Netflix.
If it feels like Disney owns pretty much everything out there right now, that’s because they pretty much do. Disney acquisitions in the past two decades include ABC Family (2001), Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009) and Lucasflim (2012). So now that Disney owns the galaxy, what does this all mean?
Uncertainty about Fox film production
Disney announced in March 2016 that they will not be making R-rated films. Now that Disney owns Fox’s film production companies, there is some uncertainty about the kind of content they will be permitted by the mouse to produce. Fox Searchlight specializes in R-rated films (The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and the Deadpool movies wouldn’t work half as well without Ryan Reynolds being his own R-rated self. Disney likely knows that, so we’ll have to wait and see if they run the Fox studios like subsidiaries (as they did with Miramax and Touchstone Pictures) or if they enforce their family-friendly policy on the new acquisitions.
Apparently you can’t actually blow the Matterhorn. pic.twitter.com/2bEAAcZrUv
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) December 14, 2017
Maybe more Marvel crossover
Right, because we needed more of that. Disney now owns the film rights to pretty much all of the mainstream Marvel titles except for Spider-Man (Sony is really holding those tight). This means we could be seeing even more crossover when it comes to those superhero films that are oh-so popular right now. Don’t roll your eyes, you know you’ll go see them (and that’s exactly what Disney wants). Chris Evans has suggested a Captain America/Fantastic Four crossover with himself as both Cap and the Human Torch, and Ryan Reynolds is prepping for Deadpool to meet Mickey Mouse.
So who do I talk to about a Cap/Human Torch buddy comedy spin-off? I’m thinking Planes, Trains and Automobiles meets Parent Trap. https://t.co/3KRPZOVzq2
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) December 6, 2017
Time to uncork that explosive sexual tension between Deadpool and Mickey Mouse. https://t.co/iUEXofWpRu
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) December 6, 2017
Wait, it’s not happening right now
With any big deal like this between companies worth more money than we can fathom and with more influence than we could ever know, the acquisition needs to be approved by the American Department of Justice. The DoJ will do an 18-month investigation into if there is evidence of “adverse competitive effects,” meaning: if the deal gives Disney too much of a share of the overall entertainment industry, it will be barred by the U.S. government. These legal investigations are a protection for consumers, but the deal being approved doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t see any negative effects. This could be damaging to independent filmmakers and basically anyone who isn’t Disney but has the audacity to make a movie. If Disney owns pretty much the entire means of production, we might see a lot less diversity in the marketplace.