Arts & Entertainment

Disney’s Proliferation of Arms

Disney’s entertainment empire could be getting a lot bigger. The giant, which has been acquiring properties for years, could potentially purchase several of 21st Century Fox’s assets. Several weeks ago, Disney first expressed interest in purchasing these assets, but the discussions ended over disagreements about price and other things, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Although Disney appears to be the front-runner in these negotiations, other companies are eyeing some of Fox’s assets. Comcast, the parent company of Universal and NBC, is another major contender, while Sony and Verizon also expressed interest. Only Disney and Comcast are in “active talks,” the Wall Street Journal says.

Fox’s film studio, television studio, cable networks like FX, foreign television networks, and the company’s stake in Hulu are all for sale. Comcast and Disney each also own part of Hulu. Not for sale are Fox News, the Fox broadcast network, and sports network FS1, according to Fortune Magazine.

Comcast and Disney are both already media giants, and the acquisition would give them franchises like X-Men, Avatar, and Kingsman, among others. Marvel fans often lament that the X-Men are unable to join the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has also led to confusion. For example, the character Quicksilver appears in the X-Men universe and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but the character is portrayed by two different actors. Although he is a mutant, as depicted in the X-Men films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not allowed to even use the word “mutant.” Thus, in the Avengers films, Quicksilver is referred to as being “enhanced.” Perhaps a Disney acquisition of the X-Men franchise would allow the X-Men to appear alongside the Avengers and eliminate confusion.

The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando also recently opened Pandora– The World of Avatar, a section of Animal Kingdom. The area is based on Pandora, the moon on which James Cameron’s “Avatar” film is set. It contains two main attractions in addition to dining and shopping. If Disney acquires the rights to Avatar films, perhaps the area could expand.

The potential deal comes amid two other major occurrences: the AT&T-Spectrum potential merger, and the increasing power of streaming services. AT&T made an agreement to purchase Spectrum, but this transaction has been halted by the Justice Department, which is arguing that the sale could be harmful to consumers. The decision is likely a long way away, but it would probably be wise for Disney and Fox to await the result of litigation before making any decisions. It is possible the government could intervene in any deal 21st Century Fox makes.

The other major force in the background of this deal is the growing power of streaming services. While broadcast networks once dominated television, they are slowly losing power to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Many people are choosing not to purchase a cable subscription at all in favor of streaming subscriptions. Disney and Fox are well aware of this shift, and are almost certainly preparing for the nearly inevitable death of broadcast television. Disney, in fact, has announced plans to launch their own streaming service, and is likely looking for a broader range of content to offer on it, which would also decrease competition with streaming-giant Netflix. Increasing its stake in Hulu would also increase profits.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Rupert Murdoch and his family intend to make a decision about the sale by the end of the year. Although most signs point to a sale, it is still not certain whether or not there will be one. It is also not certain if the sale will go to Disney. No matter what happens, there is a lot of money at stake. CNBC reported that the sale could be worth approximately $60 billion.

About the author

Robert Davies