Disney could become the latest tour de force in the streaming world with its recent $52.4 billion deal to acquire most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, including 20th Century Fox Studios and 20th Century Fox Television.
Once the deal closes this week, Disney will own the official rights to X-Men, Avatar, FX and The Simpsons. This would give it enough momentum to become a true competitor to other online video companies like Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.
Disney hopes that the acquisition will give its upcoming streaming services a major boost. The company is launching ESPN Plus, a sports streaming service in the spring of next year, as well as another streaming service, currently unnamed, that will focus strictly on movies and TV shows. The latter will likely see traffic from fans of popular shows, like The Simpsons and FX’s American Horror Story or Homeland.
Right now, Netflix is still the top dog. Of its competitors, only Hulu is considered a major player, and Disney already owns 30 percent of it. Acquiring Fox would only give it majority control over Hulu, and thus even more of an edge against Netflix. Daniel Ives, the head of technology research at GBH, says Disney could close the streaming video content gap with the acquisition:
"With the potential sale of many of Fox's entertainment assets including its movie studios, National Geographic, and importantly its stakes in Sky and Hulu to Disney we believe this would create a much more content rich competitor on the streaming front," he says.
Your world is about to be rocked
For movie fans this is huge, as it opens up limitless possibilities for crossovers between some of the biggest franchises dominating the entertainment industry right now. The Marvel cinematic universe in particular would see the most potential for growth, as Disney would no longer need to rely on licensing to use certain Marvel characters that are under Fox’s banner. They could put Wolverine, Deadpool, The Fantastic Four, or heck, all of the X-Men in an Avengers movie if they really wanted to.
The one concern people have is that movies like Logan and Deadpool that rely on R-rated content for success will be toned down, causing a loss in viewer interest. Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, has said that Disney, Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios would never make a full-on R-rated movie. Even actors like Hugh Jackman are feeling a bit bittersweet about the deal:
“It’s interesting because for the whole 17 years I kept thinking that would be so great, like I would love to see, particularly, Iron Man and the Hulk and Wolverine together. And every time I saw an Avengers movie I could just see Wolverine in the middle of all of them like punching them all on the head. But it was like, 'Oh well, that’s not gonna happen,' and it was interesting just when I first saw that headline — it was just the possibility of it and who knows what’s gonna happen, obviously — I was like, 'Hang on!' But I think, unfortunately, the ship has sailed for me, but for someone else I would like to see Wolverine in there” - Hugh Jackman for Collider
The Disney-Fox deal still currently needs approval from antitrust regulators, but once that passes, the acquisition will completely turn Hollywood and Silicon Valley upside down. As the New York Times so eloquently put it, “It is the biggest counterattack from a traditional media company against the tech giants that have aggressively moved into the entertainment business.”