On Thursday the long-rumored merger between Disney and 21st Century Fox was officially finalized. Disney announced it had agreed to acquire 21st Century Fox’s film and television studios for $52.4 billion dollars, with the deal including Fox properties such as the 20th Century Fox film studio, cable networks FX, FXX and National Geographic and international networks such as Sky and Star India. The deal also includes Disney walking away with a majority stake in the streaming service Hulu. For their part, Fox not only gets a significant infusion of cash, but they also retain the rights to their news and sports programming.
Prior to making the deal, Disney was already well on it’s way to cementing and solidifying it’s massive empire. The house that the mouse built already owned the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Star Wars franchise and Pixar. Now you can add Fox’s significant treasure trove of intellectual property to the mix. Seeing as how Star Wars: The Last Jedi is set to be released on Friday and reviews have been overwhelmingly positive across the board, you could say it’s not a bad way to end the week if you’re Disney.
But what does this mean beyond just boatloads of dollars changing hands and the employee parking lot at Disney in need of a massive expansion?
1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe Could Get Even Bigger
Marvel movies have been an evergreen windfall for Disney and in 2018 they’re looking to continue that success with the release of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. Infinity War is bringing the whole gang together and has been rumored to signify the beginning of the end when it comes to the Robert Downey Jr./Chris Evans-led era. Both stars are said to be moving on following Avengers 4, which is slated to be released in 2019. In addition to Iron Man and Captain America moving on, there is also speculation that Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk could be joining them.
Marvel is going to have to re-stock their bench. Although to be fair, doing so wouldn’t have been that hard without this merger happening. Marvel has Black Panther coming in February of 2018, as well as Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel and sequels to Ant Man and Doctor Strange in the works. They’re good. But now, thanks to this merger, they’re set.
With this merger, the Marvel Cinematic Universe can now incorporate the X-Men, Deadpool and the Fantastic Four. They could even act on Patton Oswalt’s elaborate plan for a Marvel-Star Wars crossover film that he outlined once in an episode of Parks and Recreation.
That sounds like a winner to me.
Although you have to wonder if Disney would be okay with Ryan Reynold’s R-rated portrayal of Deadpool. And man, how many failed attempts at pulling off a Fantastic Four have to happen before everyone decides to move on?
2. A New Streaming Service Joins an Already Crowded Field
Prior to the merger Disney had already announced plans to launch its own streaming service set to compete against the likes of Netflix and Amazon. In response, Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos shrugged it off, saying earlier this month that “It’ll be an interesting couple of years. What Disney going direct to consumer means, I don’t really know and I’m not positive they do, either.” Oh I think they might, Ted. But the casual vibe is appreciated.
But now the looming possibility of this Disney mega-streaming service might have Sarandos changing his tune. The Disney service would be your one-stop shop for Marvel movies, anything involving Star Wars, your kid’s favorite Pixar movie, as well as beloved Disney animated films. The service would also be the place to go for old episodes of This Is Us, Modern Family, The Simpsons, The Americans, and The X Files, not to mention classics like 24, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and In Living Color.
Oh, Disney would also have 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures’ movies, meaning they’d have anything from The Planet of the Apes franchise, the wonderful world of Wes Anderson or Juno– yes, Juno! So while Netflix can play it cool now and puff their chest out behind their bevy of scripted content and comedy specials, the future could be a little dicey for them.
3. There’s So Much Room for Activities Now
And by activities, I mean hot new content and intellectual property. In this current climate of reboots and prequels and incredibly long-awaited sequels, Disney is sitting pretty in the cat bird seat. How about a new Die Hard or why not a rebooted Die Hard starring someone like Michael B. Jordan or Miles Teller? Sure, why not? How about an updated version of The Sound of Music starring Taylor Swift? Crazy yes, but crazy enough it might work.
Say what you will about Avatar, James Cameron’s little engine that could that is also the highest-grossing movie of all time and sequels are expected to come out at some point in the near future. Those would be Disney properties now. Not bad.
This deal essentially puts Disney at the crossroads of the majority of valuable and universally-beloved intellectual property at a time when IP is possibly the world’s most valuable commodity. Let’s get working on this M*A*S*H* reboot, huh?
4. Star Wars is Finally a Family Again
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm a few years ago, the company’s earlier films stayed behind. This is why when you watch one of the original films, it’s prefaced by the massive 20th Century Fox theme song and why that theme song was noticeably absent from the start of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now the entire Star Wars franchise would be nestled comfortably under one roof.
This would obviously be of great benefit to future subscribers of the Disney streaming service, folks who would like nothing more than to spend an entire weekend binge-watching all eight episodes in the Star Wars franchise, plus maybe even Rogue One. Yet it’s also beneficial to Disney as they look to continue to expand the Star Wars Cinematic Universe, which began with Rogue One and continues with next year’s Han Solo.
Could a Star Wars television show be in the works, a live-action one as opposed to the cartoons already out there? It’s definitely an option now.
5. The Merger is Not Without Negatives, Though
For starters, it might be illegal. Or close to illegal. If it is or if it’s shady in any regard, you can expect that it’ll come out as a deal of this magnitude is going to be closely reviewed by everyone from the Federal Communications Commission to the Justice Department. The merger will most certainly be held up against the United States’ Antitrust Laws, “a collection of federal and state government laws that regulate the conduct and organization of businesses to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers.”
One issue that may possibly prove a stumbling block at some point is the way the merger could become a hinderance creatively. The amount outlets you could go to with a project have now shrunk significantly and the leverage, already on the side of studios, would now be even more so in their corner. It does appear that Disney is mindful of such issues, especially when you look at the merger’s omission of Fox Sports. Disney already owns ESPN and gobbling up one of the network’s main competitors could be scene as a step to far.