First the talks were on, then they were off, then they were with Sony, and now it appears that Fox has settled on a suitor, and he wears four-fingered gloves and giant buttons on his pants. Disney is reportedly getting set to buy out Fox’s movie and TV production divisions for a fortune, and it’ll have massive effects on everyone if it goes through.
The deal, as reported by CNBC, will essentially take Rupert Murdoch’s massive media empire out of the movie and TV production game to the tune of $60 billion. Among other things, reportedly Fox will sell its 30% stake in Hulu to Disney as part of the deal, giving Disney 60% of Hulu and solving quite a few problems that would have faced Disney’s attempt to build a streaming service otherwise. It would also likely mean that Disney takes possession of Fox’s entire back catalogue of production and rights, so not only would the X-Men go back under the Marvel banner, but Disney would own American Horror Story, Fargo, and The Simpsons. American Horror Story: Tower Of Terror, anyone?
That said, this is a strange proposition for both companies. We’ve already broken out that this is something of a salvage operation or a Hail Mary play for Fox, depending on how you look at it; Fox will need every penny of that $60 billion to prop up the businesses that remain, and even that cash might not be enough. For Disney, it would mean expanding its horizons creatively. As a rule, Disney doesn’t do R ratings or edginess, and in many ways that’s Fox’s bread and butter, from offbeat sitcoms like The Last Man On Earth and You’re The Worst to twists on superheroes like Deadpool and the in-progress The New Mutants.
It may also be fought out in court. Hollywood is already dominated by a small handful of conglomerates, with Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, Fox, and Sony producing and distributing the majority of widely released movies, and TV production is in much the same boat. Reducing that from five to four might draw the attention of regulators both here and abroad, and as mergers tend to beget other mergers, regulatory scrutiny will be particularly intense here. We’ll see just how this unfolds, as Fox and Disney come to terms.