We’re about to see two entertainment behemoths come together, as The Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox have officially announced a deal. As a result, Disney will acquire Fox’s film division and much of its TV operations for a price of over $52 billion in stock.
Disney will take over the Nat Geo network, Star TV, Fox’s movie and TV studios and its stakes in both Sky and Hulu, as well as the parts of the business that focus on regional sports broadcasting. It’ll gain a majority stake in Hulu through the deal, too. Fox News, Fox’s basic broadcast network and its national sports channels will be spun off into a new company.
One of the reasons Disney already dominates the entertainment landscape is because of big acquisitions under CEO Bob Iger — Pixar, Marvel and most recently Lucas film. The move will bulk up Disney’s content library in advance of the planned launch of the studio’s streaming service in 2019. It could also end up posing a significant business threat to Netflix, since Disney has shown it wants to put more of its own original content on its own streaming service which is set for launch in 2019, vs. on its soon-to-be rival.
Among other properties, Fox owns the Avatar franchise and the original Star Wars film.
And while Disney already does pretty well on the superhero side thanks to its ownership of Marvel, the deal brings the film rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four back in-house — so maybe that Avengers/X-Men cinematic crossover you’ve been dreaming about will finally happen. In fact, Disney pointed out as much in it is official announcement, which includes the following note:
The agreement also provides Disney with the opportunity to reunite the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool with the Marvel family under one roof and create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories that audiences have shown they love. The addition of Avatar to its family of films also promises expanded opportunities for consumers to watch and experience storytelling within these extraordinary fantasy worlds. Already, guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort can experience the magic of Pandora—The World of Avatar, a new land inspired by the Fox film franchise that opened earlier this year. And through the incredible storytelling of National Geographic—whose mission is to explore and protect our planet and inspire new generations through education initiatives and resources—Disney will be able to offer more ways than ever before to bring kids and families the world and all that is in it.
Another way to look at the deal: Disney and Fox rank number two and four, respectively, in the domestic box office for the year thus far, and collectively pulled in more than 30 percent of total domestic grosses.
In recent weeks, there’s been plenty of reporting and speculation around the deal, with CNBC saying that the announcement would come today. As expected, Disney CEO Iger has also announced his intent to remain Chairman and CEO of Disney as part of the deal through 2021, instead of retiring in 2019 as previously planned.
Disney says it expects the acquisition to close in 12 to 18 months. The deal still needs regulatory approval, which is hardly guaranteed, especially given the Department of Justice’s resistance to the AT&T-Time Warner deal.