Today is a day that will be remembered forever. It is the day that Disney officially shows its hand for world domination. After several weeks of “will they, won’t they” talk, Disney has bought major assets of one of the few other major media corporations: 21st Century Fox. The deal is an astounding, yet somehow understandable, price of $52.4 billion, in which Fox will hand over most of its film and TV assets to Disney.
Fox will maintain its broadcasting division (an actual law prevents Disney from owning two of the national broadcast channels, as they already own ABC), Fox television stations, and Fox Sports. These will be spun off into a new company.
Fox’s aim with this sale was to let go of its major film and TV assets to focus on sports and news. They were not failing or anything of the sort, simply a shift in the mind of the powers that be that the future of their business lies in that realm. Sports broadcasting is a huge revenue driver as is their, um, passionate FoxNews fanbase. Fox will be able to coast and thrive in these mediums.
For Disney, this is a way for them to continue their media domination. They expand their catalogue of shows, movies, and IP. Now owning most Marvel rights, shows like The Simpsons and It’s Always Sunny, and even being able to fully own the distribution and production of their own ABC Network shows like Modern Family provide a much easier route to building their upcoming streaming service. A large selection of binge-able classic shows is what made Netflix a hit, and Disney sees that. It’s going to be hard to pass up a Disney streaming service when it has 50% of everything ever made on it.
You’re now thinking, “wait, yeah streaming, whatever. What about those Marvel rights you’re talking about?”. Well, my sweet readers, let’s jump into that. Fox owned the rights to the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Deadpool, and others from Marvel Comics. Now, those all shift to Disney, who owns Marvel Studios and is the proprietor of the never-ending, gargantuan, industry shifting string of films known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Can we expect to see Wolverine calling Tony Stark on his smart ass shit soon? Probably not as soon as you’d like. But, it’s now a legitimate possibility. Characters that have interacted for years on page now have the opportunity to come together on screen.*
*We will have a piece up next week, discussing how this affects the future of superhero movies and what to expect in the coming years.
Ultimately there’s a lot to unpack here. This isn’t an awesome thing to happen in terms of options for variety of entertainment, creativity, and consumer interests. Less studios or companies making things means less chance for original pieces. A company like Disney doesn’t make very many movies a year, and the ones they do make are safe bets for the most part. They thrive on IP and sequels and franchises, all following near cookie-cutter molds and rarely pushing boundaries. Fox wasn’t making a million great movies a year, but in the biggest genre they made the two (Logan; Deadpool) most out there and creative, industry-jolting flicks yet. Who knows if Disney lets that happen?
This is the second largest media conglomerate taking the majority of the fourth largest media conglomerate. We’ve always had an oligopoly in this sector, and this isn’t turning it into a monopoly, but it makes it even closer. And that’s not ideal.
But this is all speculation and negativity. Maybe one day when we are all going to our local Mickey Mouse statue in town to recite the 23 Commandments of Disney while our new world anthem plays (a hit song from thinly veiled propaganda in the form of a Pixar movie about a sad but quirky mop finding his place in the world of office cleaning) we may just crack a smile because Chris Evans played Johnny Storm and Captain America in a road trip comedy.
For full details of the technical and in-depth aspects of the deal, you can read the Variety report here.