March 20, 2019
by Carla Hay
The Walt Disney Company has completed its $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets, which include movie studio 20th Century Fox, production company Fox 21 Television Studios, movie studio Fox Searchlight, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners and Blue Sky Studios. The acquisition now makes Disney the world’s largest entertainment company. Disney also owns Marvel Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm and ABC. The deal was first announced in December 2017.
News Corp., which sold off most of its Fox entertainment assets, is still retaining ownership of Fox News, the Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox-owned local TV stations, Fox Sports, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. As a result of the acquisition, News Corp. has changed its name to Fox Corp., and the Fox Broadcasting Company (whose TV shows include “The Simpsons,” “Empire,” “Hell’s Kitchen” and “The Masked Singer”) will be operated by the newly formed Fox Entertainment.
Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox means that Disney now owns movie assets such as the “X-Men” series, the “Deadpool” series, the “Fantastic Four” series and the “Avatar” series. Fox’s other blockbuster movie hits in recent decades include “Titanic” (jointly owned with Paramount Pictures), “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the “Planet of the Apes” series, the “Ice Age” series, the “Alien” series and the “Predator” series.
A merger of this magnitude will result in new leadership and thousands of employee layoffs. Most of the job cuts are expected to be at the Fox companies that were acquired by Disney.
So what does this Disney/Fox mega-merger mean for consumers?
Disney will now have even more content for its streaming service Disney+, which is expected to launch before the end of 2019. Disney+ has not yet announced its content, but the Disney+ service is poised to become the biggest threat to Netflix, since Disney can exercise exclusive rights to have Disney content on its own streaming service. That means it’s only a matter of time before Netflix will lose Disney-owned blockbuster films such as Marvel superhero movies, the “Star Wars” series, the “Pirates of Caribbean” series and Pixar films, such as “The Incredibles” and “Toy Story.” Netflix has already canceled its original Marvel superhero series “Daredevil,” “The Punisher,” “Luke Cage,” “The Defenders,” “Iron Fist” and “Jessica Jones.” Disney has already announced that Disney+ will have exclusive streaming rights to Disney-owned films released in 2019 and beyond. These films include “Captain Marvel,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Toy Story 4,” “Star Wars Episode IX” and the live-action remakes of “Dumbo,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”
As for TV series that originally aired on other networks, Disney-owned series such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and FX series such as “American Horror Story” might no longer be available on Netflix once Netflix’s licensing agreements expire with those shows.
Because of the Disney/Fox merger, Disney now owns 60 percent of Hulu, which could mean that Hulu will get much of the Disney/Fox content that Netflix currently has. It’s unclear how much longer Hulu will exist, now that Disney+ is going to launch. It’s possible that the Disney+ service will be a more family-oriented brand, allowing Hulu to have Fox content that is edgier and more adult-oriented.
Unlike Disney, Fox releases numerous R-rated movies, and that is not expected to change. It’s unknown at this point what the fate will be for Fox Searchlight, which is a boutique studio that has a stellar track record of releasing Oscar-caliber films, including Best Picture winners “The Shape of Water” and “12 Years a Slave.”
Fox 21 Television Studios’ current TV series are mostly on the FX network (“American Horror Story,” “American Crime Story,” “Feud,” “Pose,” “Mayans M.C.”), while a few are on Showtime (“Homeland,” “The Chi”) and other networks, such as National Geographic’s “Genius,” USA Network’s “Queen of the South” and Netflix’s “The Politician.”
Disney’s theme parks will also be affected by the Fox acquisition. Don’t be surprised if attractions related to “X-Men,” “Ice Age” and/or “Planet of the Apes” are added. In 2017, Disney added an “Avatar” attraction at Disney World in Florida.
Although critics of the Disney/Fox deal say that less competition is not good for consumers, this type of corporate consolidation is a reality that is here to stay. (The Disney/Fox merger comes on the heels of AT&T’s 2018 acquisition of several former Time Warner entertainment assets, including Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Television Studios and Turner.) There may be more entertainment content than ever before, but the number of corporations owning the content has gotten much smaller.
March 21, 2019 UPDATE: As a result of Disney’s acquisition of several Fox entertainment companies, Fox 2000 Pictures (a sibling company of 20th Century Fox) will be shut down, according to Variety. Some of Fox 2000’s releases included “The Hate U Give,” “Love, Simon,” “Hidden Figures,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” “The Life of Pi,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Two of the last movies to be released under the Fox 2000 banner is the faith-based drama “Breakthrough” ( due out on April 17, 2019) and the family drama “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” which is scheduled for release on September 27, 2019.