While Disney CEO Bob Iger swears he’s leaving his post this next time around, it appears the savvy businessman who brought Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm under the Disney umbrella during his tenure has one more major purchase up his sleeve. CNBC reports that 21st Century Fox has been holding talks to sell most of its company to Disney, which would include the feature film and television divisions, meaning Star Wars: A New Hope would officially be owned by Lucasfilm/Disney. It would also mean that every major Marvel Comics property that Fox owns—including X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool—would potentially come under the Marvel Studios umbrella, opening the door to combine these various characters and universes with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This is very early and CNBC notes that at this very moment, the two companies aren’t talking. But apparently there’s been an on again/off again relationship with these negotiations, so they could resume at any minute. And indeed, this CNBC story feels like a leak intended to move the conversation along.
21st Century Fox’s management is under the belief that they can’t compete with the media scale of other studios, and that Disney has the scale necessary to take its film and television productions to new heights. But 21st Century Fox wouldn’t sell all of its company. By offloading its media properties, the studio would keep a tight focus on news and sports. Since a company can’t own two broadcast networks, Fox would remain under the 21st Century Fox control/umbrella, as would the Fox Sports programming as Disney believes joining forces between ESPN and Fox Sports could be seen as anti-competitive from an antitrust standpoint. The same reasoning relates to their decision not to buy Fox News or Fox Business, which would also remain with 21st Century Fox
But Disney would own the movie studio, TV production and international assets, and networks such as FX and National Geographic. The movie implications are the largest here, at least from a consumer standpoint. Fox has done a great job over the past year or two with building out its own Marvel universe with divergent films like Logan and the upcoming New Mutants, Deadpool 2, and X-Force. No doubt the timeline implications of folding these into the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be a nightmare, so it’s possible Disney keeps those separate for now while allowing Marvel Studios to reboot properties like Fantastic Four under the MCU umbrella.
At least from a financial standpoint the potential here is massive, and the merchandising opportunities alone for Disney would seemingly be reason enough to make the purchase.