Mickey Mouse and Wolverine are about to play nice, in a way. On December 14, the Walt Disney Co. and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox agreed to a $52.4 billion deal in which Disney will acquire many valuable assets from the Fox empire.
As part of the deal, Disney will acquire Fox’s movie and TV production company, popular channel Star India, as well as a 39-percent stake in European broadcaster Sky. Disney also now owns a number of Fox’s pay-TV channels including FX, and National Geographic. Disney is not getting all that Fox has to offer, however, as Murdoch will still run the Fox News channel, the Fox broadcast network in the U.S., and the FS1 Sports network, as part of a new company spun off from 21st Century Fox.
This deal also means Disney now has a majority stake in Hulu, a coup for the 94-year old media conglomerate as it prepares to launch a few of its own streaming services dedicated to its growing library of content. In November, Disney began pulling its movies from Netflix in preparation for its own streaming service expected to launch in 2019. This deal means movies from 21st Century Fox franchises such as X-Men could be exclusively featured on Disney’s upcoming streaming service, and the Marvel superhero properties previously owned by Fox — including X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four — could be integrated into Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe.
This deal will also make Disney one of the biggest players in sports television. The company already owns ESPN, and it announced in November plans to launch a stand-alone streaming service for the sports network –named ESPN Plus— in spring 2018. With the acquisition of Fox’s broadcast networks, Disney now also owns numerous local Fox networks which air local baseball and basketball games.
As historic as this deal is, it’s not done, yet.
The Justice Department will need to give the deal a regulatory review, which could reportedly take a year to complete, but may take longer given the department’s recent involvement in big media company mergers. The Justice Department sued to block the $85 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner a year after the two companies agreed on the deal. The Department lodged the lawsuit on its belief AT&T would use Time Warner’s popular programming to drive up prices for customers.
There’s also the small matter of needing Fox shareholders’ approval for the deal to go through. According to The Wrap, the tentative offer from NBC Universal parent company Comcast amounted to approximately $60 billion, meaning that Fox shareholders could be inclined to ultimately veto the significantly lower offer from Disney. A shareholder vote hasn’t been scheduled at this point.
If all goes well with the Justice Department and Fox shareholders, however, the entire entertainment landscape is set to change in 2018, and beyond.
Updated February 13, 2018: We added information regarding the Comcast offer for Fox.
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