Acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney

Around late 2017, rumours of a negotiation between The Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox started brewing. It was only on the 14th of December 2017 that Disney officially announced they were approaching 21st Century Fox in hopes to buy the company’s entertainment assets including their film and television divisions. The deal between both large companies was fairly private and quiet for an entire year until 12:02 AM Eastern Time on March 20 2019, when Disney officially announced that they had successfully acquired 21st Century Fox for a total amount of $71.3 billion.

The Disney/ Fox merger is considered to be one of the biggest media merges so far. The fall of 21st Century Fox marks the first time in a long period that a major movie studio, 20th Century Fox, has stopped working independently. This also results in a shift in terms of the number of movie studios that produce blockbuster films in Hollywood. After the merge, 20th Century Fox leaves the ranks of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Paramount Pictures to merge with Disney. What was once six have now become five. Additionally, the loss of 20th Century Fox means that Disney has once again gained another film studio, adding to their current roster which includes big industry players such as Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Walt Disney Animation.

However, it is important to note that the Fox Corporation continues to exist independently despite the purchase of 21st Century Fox. Fox Corporation, founded by Rupert Murdoch, will now primarily focus on television broadcast, news, and sports broadcasting. News Corp., Fox Corporation’s sister industry, will also continue to hold Murdoch’s print and other media assets such as the Wallstreet Journal. The Fox TV Network still belongs at Fox Corporation as corporations are not allowed to own more than one broadcast network. Unfortunately for them, they have lost access to the Fox TV Studio which produced the majority of shows that were regularly broadcasted on the channel.

In terms of movies and television, Disney now owns Fox’s entire film and television catalogue. Aside from acquiring 21st Century Fox, Disney has also gained its sister company, Fox Searchlight, which specialises in the distribution of smaller, independent films. Disney has also acquired TV networks including FX and the National Geographic Channel meaning the company now has channels which are targeted more towards adult and mature audiences. This shows a big change as the Disney Corporation mainly catered to younger audiences with content that was considered as ‘family entertainment’.

The Disney/ Fox merger has also resulted in something that has given the former more power. 21st Century Fox previously owned 30 percent of the American streaming site Hulu, as did Disney. But ever since the deal became official, Disney now has 60 percent ownership of Hulu, making it the majority owner of the streaming site.

If you have been following this story since the rumours first broke out on mainstream media in late 2017, then you know exactly what part of the deal has received the most media attention and coverage. The Disney/ Fox merger has meant one thing and one thing only to a lot of people. The return of many beloved Marvel characters back to their original home.

Marvel Studios had sold the rights to many popular characters to 20th Century Fox back in the 1990s when the studio was going through financial trouble. But when the studio started their highly acclaimed Cinematic Universe, fans had a desire to see these particular characters in the shared universe. Unfortunately for them, it was highly unlikely as 20th Century Fox had their own plans for these characters and were not interested in giving them back. The Marvel films produced by 20th Century Fox, such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, have never been highly acclaimed and often fall short of expectations, thus making the characters’ return to Marvel Studios exciting. Ever since Marvel Studios was bought by Disney in 2009, the studio has produced blockbuster after blockbuster hit. Fans are now extremely eager to see what the future holds.

Nevertheless, the Disney/ Fox merger also has many negative aspects to it. It is believed that approximately 10,000 Disney and former Fox employees will be dismissed sometime after the merger. Moreover, the acquirement of 21st Century Fox to the Disney Corporation has meant that media consolidation is continually getting worse. If it continues at this rate, it is highly likely that Disney will continue to buy off its competition, leaving media consumers with few choices. However, it is possible for smaller companies to disrupt and shake the entertainment industry. The most notable instance of this is the rise of Netflix.

The streaming service, which was founded in 1997, has increased in popularity over the past couple of years thanks to developments in technology. Netflix offers a variety of high quality ‘Netflix Originals’ which range from television series’, movies, and documentaries and also continue to stream various content from other producers. Netflix can now be considered as a threat to bigger movie studios after its original film, Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2018) found Hollywood and Oscar success after winning three Academy Awards in 2019. Furthermore, it is evident that Netflix’s impact on the entertainment industry has been severe as many larger companies, Disney included, have made their own streaming service, such as Disney+, Hulu, and the DC Universe, in order to compete. But unlike Netflix, the majority of these streaming services are not available worldwide, and thus, Netflix continues to dominate in its field.

As the mega-company is still fresh and in its early days, we as an audience are still unclear about where it is headed. But through the official statement released by Disney, one thing is certain:

“Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox will bring an unprecedented collection of content and talent to consumers around the world.”

Wednesday 3rd of April, 2019

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