(Above image source: Dark Mamba, DeviantArt)
Article by Tom Holste
Aug. 13, 2018
Some of this is old news, but has not yet been reported on my blog. So just to quickly make sure everyone is up to speed:
Comcast (which owns NBC and Universal Pictures, and is a top rival to Disney) and Sony both put in a competing bid for Fox. They both dropped out, but then Universal showed renewed interest and ultimately put in a $65 billion dollar bid for Fox. But Disney upped its bid to $71 billion, and Fox accepted that. Comcast could have bid even higher, but instead have now bowed out of the running. And the antitrust issues that seemed to be crucial went away rather quickly. (Surprisingly, the government seemed more concerned about Comcast’s acquisition of Fox than Disney’s.)
Now that brings us to two weeks ago…
One of the last remaining hurdles to clear was that the board of directors at each company had to accept the deal. But now, both companies have accepted the merger, in meetings that had so few objections that they lasted less than 15 minutes apiece.
All along, I’ve been trying to caution people against believing that the deal was done yet, for better or for worse. But with the only remaining issue being to clear the deal in a few foreign territories, I would say that the deal is about 90% done at this point. (Yes, I did just make up that statistic. Thanks for asking.)
The lawyers on both sides will probably take about a year to get everything settled, and much of the next year will involve planning the new corporate structure. But things are so close now that I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an X-Men reference in the end credits scene of next year’s Avengers movie.
It’s astonishing that Fox has been brought this low in the first place. For many decades of recent history, a Fox film was at the top of the all-time highest grossing films, unadjusted for inflation (1977-82 for the original Star Wars, then again in 1997 after its re-release; Titanic from 1997 to 2009; and then Avatar from 2009 to 2015). Disney never had a film at the very top during that period until 2015 with–you guessed it–Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And now Disney will own all of those films. I suppose it shows that even the occasional huge success can’t compete with the reliability of Disney’s hit-making machine.
Other new wrinkles in the story:
–Even though it often takes years to develop movies, 20th Century Fox is at a bit of a standstill as they don’t yet know what films will be kept or killed by the new administration. (Despite such difficulties, there are two completed X-Men movies, Dark Phoenix and New Mutants, heading to theaters in 2019; new Simpsons and Bob’s Burgers movies in the works; and TV reboots for Buffy and 24 in development.)
–Since Fox and Disney each own a third of streaming service Hulu, the combined corporation would own 2/3rds of the service, giving them a controlling interest in the company. (The other third is owned by Universal.) With Disney making plans for a streaming service next year, It’s possible that Hulu could morph into that Disney-exclusive service, with Disney’s and Fox’s extensive TV and film libraries providing the content.
–It remains unclear what Disney will do with Fox’s non-family-friendly franchises such as the Alien and Die Hard movies. Again, not a single article I’ve read states whether Disney gets the Fox logo, or if that stays with the New Fox TV stations, and Disney just owns the titles. If not, they could release those films under a revived Touchstone brand. But at $71 billion, Disney is probably getting the logo.
–While many have talked about the non-family-friendly films, there’s been little talk of how Disney will brand classic Fox movies that are family-friendly. Will Disney put their logo in front of Miracle on 34th Street, The Sound of Music, Home Alone and others, and just pretend like they always made those movies in the first place?
–Yes, Anastasia will now technically be a Disney princess. So will Princess Buttercup, although Fox only retains theatrical rights to The Princess Bride. (MGM owns the home video rights.)
–Perhaps the craziest part of all of this? Back in June, AT&T bought Time Warner…and there was hardly a peep out of the news media about that.
One of the sadder things that also hasn’t got much press about this story is that there will undoubtedly be a lot of layoffs in the company, as many jobs are about to become redundant. (I feel bad that it didn’t occur to me sooner either.) Part of me still wishes this could have played out differently, but there will undoubtedly be some positives to come from this merger. And since I have no control over it anyway, all I can do now is watch and continue to report on both the good and things that happen as this fascinating deal continues to unfold.