I asked my eight-year-old son about his thoughts regarding Disney buying Fox. He gave me perplexed look. Seeing his reaction, I gave the query context.
I informed him that Disney owns the rights to Marvel Studios, while Fox, in similar fashion had dominion over the X-Men. My son smiled and said: “We can finally see the Avengers vs. X-Men storyline become a reality!”
My son was referring to the 2012 crossover event in Marvel Comics that pitted the Avengers against the X-Men. In the comic book world, it was easy to do collaborations. But, in the celluloid world, such joint efforts were hard to do. Studios were less likely to cooperate than comic book brands. So, unless a studio owned all the characters, an Avengers and X-Men team-up seemed unlikely until now.
Fan boys, as expected, are elated with the idea of seeing Disney and Fox superheroes occupy the same celluloid space. And when the fans are happy, expect them to come in droves, gobble up related content, and buy corresponding merchandise. All these indicate healthy revenue streams for Disney.
The reason behind the deal
But, aside from profit, there are strategic reasons why the Bob Iger-led company opted to make its biggest purchase in recent memory.
Disney understood that success in the entertainment business depended on winning on two fronts: content and content delivery. “For Disney, the future of TV and movie viewing is online.” The idea therefore of watching the newest Avengers film via a smartphone wasn’t far-fetched at all.
So, due to the evolving business landscape that Disney faced, Iger spearheaded the decision to obtain Rupert Murdoch’s Fox for a whooping US$71.3 billion.
With the deal going down, what does Disney get in return?
From a content perspective, Disney gets to own lucrative film franchises like the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool, Avatar, Planet of the Apes, Alien, Die Hard, Independence Day, Predator, and etc. The corporation will have control over TV shows like The Simpsons and Empire and set the course for cable networks like FX and National Geographic.
From a content delivery standpoint, Disney can now extend its reach beyond American shores. It can now have presence in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa due to Fox Networks Group International. Disney can also focus on India with its ownership of Star India. And the Iger-led company can finally go into Europe with the Sky network.
But, the more compelling development actually lies in Disney’s ability to go toe-to-toe with Netflix and Amazon. With Disney buying Fox, the former gets to own the latter’s Hulu—a formidable Netflix rival. This is crucial since a January 2018 Bloomberg article claimed that internet streaming has become “so popular that Americans are abandoning cable-TV subscriptions in droves, eating into media companies’ profits.”
With the basis for the Disney acquisition laid down, the next step is to understand the notable implications of the deal.
Disney, as already indicated above, is set to earn a lot moving forward. The return-on-investment is staggering. Indiewire’s Michael Nordine claimed that Disney could control 40 percent of the box office! The Iger-led corporation will have, as Barton Crockett of FBR Capital Markets tells CNN, “so much market share, that it will seem to give them leverage up and down the supply chain.”
Aside from Disney, the movie-going public will also benefit from the transaction. They will have access to more content in the way they want it. For example, they can decide whether they want to view a Fantastic Four – Avengers team-up via a platform or a device of their own choosing.
But, the situation isn’t all rosy. With more content at the hands of Disney, Iger’s company now faces higher expectations.
Can Disney, for instance, actually excite its audience with a team-up between Captain America and Deadpool? Will such a movie break the box office?
On the other hand, should Disney keep Marvel and Fox franchises separate? Maybe the right course of action is not to disturb the status quo.
Whether Disney will wilt due to the pressure is anybody’s guess.
Now, as for the moviegoers, they may inadvertently get the short end of the deal as well.
How will they react if the Fox owned properties get Disneyfied? Will a looming Disney hegemony spell the doom for artistic distinctiveness in the film industry? A possible case study in the making is Fox’s Deadpool.
Deadpool’s owes its success to its irreverence, crassness, and outright outrageousness. The franchise relishes in its R-rated qualification. It knows that unlike a more family-friendly Marvel film, a Deadpool motion picture has a niche audience—one with formidable economic power as the box office indicates. But, since Disney now owns Fox, will it reinvent Deadpool and force fit the motor mouth mutant to it its mold? This is a question that deserves an answer in the near future.
And there is, of course, the effect on Hollywood itself. Will Disney become a powerful monopoly, to the point of pushing smaller studios out of business? This eventuality is not far from reality.
So, the jury is still out. There’s no concrete indication as to how things will pan out for both Disney and to an extent the movie industry. Things will happen one way or another.
But for now, I will let things transpire. I instead focus on my son. He knows that an Avengers versus X-Men movie will happen. He grins from ear-to-ear just thinking about it. To me, that is enough.