Well it looks like that Disney-Fox merger might happen after all. Early last month, word surfaced that Disney had engaged in talks to buy assets from 21st Century Fox, including the film studio and non-broadcast TV parts like FX and National Geographic. At the time, talks had cooled and the two studios weren’t actively in negotiations, but there was always the possibility that those talks could resume. According to CNBC, they have. The outlet reports that not only are talks back on, but they’re closing in on a deal that could be announced as early as next week. The value of the Fox assets is more than $60 billion, which makes the purchase of Lucasfilm seem like chump change in hindsight.
As previously reported if the deal goes through, Disney would buy Fox’s movie and television production assets, while Fox could keep its news, sports, and the broadcast network Fox. The sale arose when 21st Century Fox executives decided they couldn’t compete as well in the marketplace with their film studio (which is hogwash) and instead wanted to focus on honing the news and sports portions of the company.
The specifics of the deal in terms of how things change is wildly unclear. It’s possible Disney keeps Fox as a “separate” studio like Lucasfilm or Marvel Studios and sets up its own executives and hierarchy. Or it’s possible portions of 20th Century Fox (the film studio) are moved to existing Disney assets, like bringing all the superhero movies to Marvel Studios, etc.
I still contend this is bad for consumers. One less major movie studio making films is one less option for filmmakers and storytellers. Fox, if owned by Disney, may entirely shift the kinds of films it makes, and whereas in the past you could go to Fox to try and sell your project if Disney passed, this now blurs those lines.
And for those who contend this would result in Marvel Studios-quality reboots of X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc., don’t hold your breath. The current Marvel Studios regime is already stretched pretty thin making three films a year, so if they expanded that number to five (assuming Fox would still make 1-3 superhero movies a year), the creative oversight folks have become accustomed to from Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige becomes impossible to manage. Getting three Marvel movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor; Ragnarok in the same year that Fox puts out something as wildly different (and R-rated) as Logan could become a thing of the past. Moreover, Fox and Marvel Studios would no longer be competitors—ultimately they’d play for the same team—so how would this affect what kinds of films that could be made and when they’re released?
Moreover, would Disney ever allow a greenlight for a movie like A Cure for Wellness or Alien: Covenant? Fox has been making ambitious moves recently, allowing talented filmmakers to have a lot of creative freedom on expensive projects, but that’s kind of the opposite of the Disney model, which values IP above all else. Would Fox’s identity get completely lost in this sale?
All of this and more were laid out far more eloquently by Matt Goldberg in his editorial last month, and it’s important to look past the immediate gratification to the longterm ramifications. There’s no guarantee this deal goes through, but we could have some very, very big news heading our way next week that will change the landscape of Hollywood dramatically.