Updated on December 10, 2021
News came last week that Disney’s been in talks with 21st Century Fox to buy most of their assets, most prominently the famed 20th Century Fox film studio.
The sale wouldn’t include (for antitrust reasons) Fox News, the Fox broadcasting network, or the national/regional Fox Sports networks, as Disney already owns ABC News/ABC/ESPN . Talks are currently stalled, however, so (for now) this deal might be dead.
Why does Fox want to sell?
As CNBC describes Fox’s current plans:
For Fox, the willingness to engage in sale talks with Disney stems from a growing belief among its senior management that scale in media is of immediate importance and there is not a path to gain that scale in entertainment through acquisition. The company is said to believe that a more tightly focused group of properties around news and sports could compete more effectively in the current marketplace.
Basically, Fox doesn’t see buying out more and more companies as viable; neither does Fox doubling down on increasingly expensive blockbuster movie production. They’d rather focus on their few sure hits: sports, Fox News, and the Fox network.
In recent years, Fox’s X-Men and Fantastic Four films have floundered (“Logan” and “Deadpool” aside). Additionally, Fox has lost the rights to distribute the “Star Wars” films (when Disney bought Lucasfilm). They’ve also lost the rights to distribute Dreamworks films; “Captain Underpants,” released this past summer, was the last film. Subsequent Dreamworks films will be released via sibling company Universal.
What Disney would receive
Disney still wants to expand upon its already-gargantuan media empire. Acquiring Fox’s film libraries, properties, and other assets would’ve been quite a boost.
If a Disney buyout of Fox’s assets did happen, the properties that’d be under the Disney umbrella include the following (plus more):
Blue Sky Studios
Blue Sky is the studio behind the “Ice Age” franchise. Scrat and company aren’t as lucrative as they once were, but “Ice Age” sequels are still fairly popular outside of North America.
This would also give Disney yet another library of animated characters, on top of the Disney theatrical/TV characters and Pixar.
The 20th Century Fox studio
The 20th Century Fox fanfare could finally return to the beginning of “Star Wars” films. I still miss not hearing it play before the last few “Star Wars” films.
Disney already has the James Cameron franchise as a part of its theme park.
“The Simpsons” and “Futurama”
Disney would presumably gain ownership of the long-running Fox mainstay and more-sporadically-running Fox/Comedy Central sci-fi series.
Film rights to (basically) the rest of the Marvel superheroes
Film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, plus related characters, would all be Disney-owned.
Since Disney bought Marvel in 2009, the Marvel heroes have become a very lucrative part of Disney’s portfolio. I’d imagine they’d love to finally regain rights to the actual mutants. If that happened, I’d expect the Inhumans’ recent heavy push (outside of characters like Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl) to drop back to their former B-lister status. Saying “they’re a mutant!” could even be Marvel’s go-to generic superpower origin again.
Disney’s already made arrangements with Sony to let Spidey take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thus, Wolverine, the Thing, and company’s film rights return would basically take care of the entire pantheon of Marvel characters.
Why this merger shouldn’t happen
As usual, my reason against this merger is the same as why Comcast shouldn’t have been allowed to buy Dreamworks or NBC Universal, or why AT&T shouldn’t be allowed to buy Time Warner, or other media buyouts in recent decades. There’s already too much concentration of media ownership; it doesn’t benefit anyone but Wall Street and the companies themselves. It’s already the case that the country’s biggest ISP is also the biggest cable company and owns its own media production arms.
Most US media is controlled by just several large conglomerates: Comcast, Disney, National Amusements (the owner of CBS and Viacom), 21st Century Fox, and Time Warner. That’s down from over 50 companies in 1983.
So as much as I’d like to see the Thing and Storm under Marvel Studios’ guidance, I’m against this buyout on principle. Again, assuming if and when it ever does happen.
Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.