Last year, Disney announced its intentions to purchase 21st Century Fox Inc. and merge it with the Disney brand. Over the past year, Disney has secured approvals for the merger from several key players, including the European Union and China. Disney will pay $71.3 billion dollars, including $35.7 billion in cash, to acquire Fox and its assets.
Through the merger, Disney will acquire Fox’s film properties — 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000 — as well as several television and cable channels. They will also gain Fox Networks Group International, Star India and Fox’s stake in Hulu, among other assets. A “New” Fox will be born after the merger, consisting of television channels and a studio lot in Los Angeles and will retain its stake in Roku.
Graphic from Biz Journals
By acquiring Fox’s film studios, Disney will assumed control of a number of major movie franchises and television shows, including Night at the Museum, Ice Age and Home Alone, as well as the upcoming Avatar sequels, the Marvel universe and Star Wars. Popular shows like Archer, Modern Family, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers and The Simpsons will also join the Disney family.
Due to the international reach of both companies, Disney had to seek regulatory approval from markets around the globe before completing the deal. Antitrust regulators in the US approved the merger in June, on the condition that Disney sell the regional sports channels it acquires from Fox. Despite the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, Chinese regulators gave the merger unconditional approval in November.
The European Union recently granted conditional approval for the deal, after Disney agreed to sell its stake in the History, H2, Crime & Investigation, Blaze and Lifetime channels in Europe to meet competition requirements. Brazil remains a holdout, with the Brazilian Administrative Council of Economic Defense (CADE) raising concerns about a lack of competition on Brazil’s cable networks if the deal goes through. Disney has stated they are continuing to work with CADE to find a solution that will satisfy both sides.
In addition to changing television and film markets, the merger will reshape the streaming landscape as well since Disney will acquire Fox’s 30 percent stake in Hulu, giving it majority control. Comcast and WarnerMedia own the remaining shares of Hulu, 30 percent and 10 percent respectively. Disney has announced plans to take Hulu international and offer its services to more viewers to grow the platform.
Photo from Mashable
With plans to launch its own streaming service in 2019 called Disney Play, experts have raised concerns that Disney is making a mistake by choosing to support two streaming services rather than simply expanding Hulu. Others, however, argue that having both is a benefit for Disney, sinch many Hulu originals, such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” don’t fit Disney’s family-oriented brand.
Disney’s CEO Bob Iger said Disney is committed to growing Hulu alongside its own streaming platform. “We aim to use the television production capabilities of the combined company to fuel Hulu with a lot more original programming, original programming that we feel will enable Hulu to compete even more aggressively in the marketplace,” Iger told The Wrap.
Between the expansion of Hulu and the launch of Disney Play, Netflix is poised for a battle to maintain control of the market. Ampere Analysis, a London-based analyst firm, has estimated Netflix will have to triple its current spending to match the combined power of Fox and Disney’s entry to the digital content war. Netflix has successfully fought off rivals in the past, including Hulu and Amazon Prime, but the Fox-Disney merger may require new tactics. With the might of the mouse behind Hulu, and Disney Play waiting in the wings, Netflix may be in for the fight of its life.