Entertainment as we know it changed forever with Walt Disney Co’s acquisition of the film, television and international businesses of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. The $52.4 billion all-stocks deal was finalised on December 14.
The tie-up, which is reportedly expected to be closed in 12-18 months, will provide Disney the ammunition that it needs to take on media and technology giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix. It allows Disney to claim ownership over Fox’s moneyspinning franchises such as Avatar and The Simpsons and gives it a 60% stake in streaming service Hulu, allowing the media giant to take Netflix head-on in the digital content space. Meanwhile, Marvel fans are alternately anticipating and dreading the possibility of the X-Men, Deadpool and other Marvel characters under Fox joining Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The merger has prompted a flurry of analyses in media publications, with some predicting doom and contending that the consolidation of two major movie studios will severely affect the prospect of competition and diversity in filmmaking. Closer home, Indian publications have looked at the impact of the merger on the domestic market, where Fox has a joint venture with STAR.
- Todd VanDerWerff in Vox contends that the deal means “big, scary things” for the entertainment industry. “Considering that Disney has proved so capable at turning beloved cultural properties into blandly effective hit-producing machines, there are a handful of reasons to be at least cautiously anticipatory about what it might do with all of its new toys,” VanDerWerff observes. “Having one less major studio isn’t a great sign for the health of the American entertainment industry, for the future prospects of film lovers, and for anybody who read the David Mitchell novel Cloud Atlas and recoiled a bit when learning that his futuristic, dystopian society where humans are literal corporate cattle described movies as ‘Disneys’.”
- Kristopher Taplee strikes a more optimistic note in Variety, speculating that the deal is likely to finally turn hit-churning Disney into a studio that produces award-winning films: “Disney has been one of the least awards-focused studios in the game for decades...Through “Big” Fox and subsidiary Fox Searchlight, the studio would have a whole other silo far more adept at the awards game…if that’s even of interest, that is.”
- In Deadline, Nancy Tartaglione and Peter White explore how Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s assets is set to drastically alter market dynamics all over the globe, especially in India and China. “A market to keep an eye on, particularly in the digital space, is India,” they note. “The populous country is seeing wild digital growth – the Murdochs recently called it Fox’s “most important growth market.””
- Surajeet Das Gupta in The Business Standard weighs in on how the deal will affect the broadcasting scene in India. “According to those privy to the talks, the entire business of Star India, including entertainment and sports channels and the digital over-the-top channel Hotstar, will be transferred to Disney as part of the deal,” he notes. “That will catapult Disney, currently a small player known primarily for kids’ channels and distribution of Hollywood films, as the country’s largest media & entertainment broadcaster, with over $1.3 billion of additional India revenue.”
- The merger has caused employees at 20th Century Fox to become increasingly anxious about their jobs, write Matt Donelly and Itay Hod in The Wrap. “Employees at 20th Century’s film and TV studios are wracked with anxiety over the prospect of layoffs – which analysts said are a forgone conclusion – according to nearly a dozen staffers and collaborators TheWrap spoke with on Thursday and Friday,” the publication noted.
- The merger will allow Disney to gain access to Fox’s content on Hulu, providing a much-needed boost to its online streaming platform, writes Natalie Jarvey in The Hollywood Reporter. “Now, Disney has the opportunity to funnel content from its own channels, not to mention programming from Fox’s television and film studios and cable networks including FX, into Hulu,” she observes.
- This could mean trouble for Netflix and Amazon, warns Nelson Granados in Forbes. “Digital distributors should get ready for fierce battles where Disney, with compelling content to power its direct-to-consumer streaming services and its majority-owned Hulu streaming service, will be competing for subscribers worldwide,” he writes. “Netflix and Amazon have a serious head start, but if anyone can challenge them, it’s Disney with its branded content.”
- Disney’s acquisition is likely to alter the company’s wholesome, family-friendly image, creating a culture clash, writes David NG in The Los Angeles Times. “The entertainment industry will be waiting to see if Disney’s squeaky-clean image ends up clashing with Fox’s edgier aesthetic,” he says. “While some experts predict problems, others see a smoother transition, citing Disney’s track record of allowing multiple brands to flourish with relative autonomy within the enchanted castle.”
- David Betancourt in the Washington Post speculates the possible impact of the deal on the X-Men and Fantastic Four movie franchises. “The best thing Fox can do for their superhero movie future is give the keys to Marvel Studios,” he writes.
- Meanwhile, in further proof of its prescience, The Simpsons, which had foreseen Donald Trump’s presidency, had also predicted the Disney-Fox merger in 1988, observes Melissa Locker in Time, in an episode titled “When You Dish Upon A Star”.