Just like that, The Walt Disney Company just got a whole lot bigger. The major purchase of 21st Century Fox that we’ve been anticipating since the end of 2017 is now finally finalized, with Disney now owning all of the assets from Fox, except for FOX News Channel, FOX and FOX Sports, which is being spun-off into a new company still led by Rupert Murdoch. However, this gives Disney access to the entire 20th Century Fox library, Fox Television’s creative units, and a major stake in the streaming wars, including their new 30% stake in Hulu as part of the deal. While Disney has bought many franchises in the past, including Marvel and Lucasfilm, this purchase marks the beginning of a new era for the company, and it may not ever be the same again.
First, no merger is met without challenges. It’s not far-fetched to believe that both companies will change significantly so that these two differing company cultures can learn to benefit from one another going forward. Entertainment website The Hollywood Reporter expects a major restructuring between both companies, changing the landscape of the industry significantly. This purchase limits the playing field in the entertainment industry making Disney a global powerhouse in entertainment, but what does it mean for us fans? The future for Disney fans is both exciting and also quite uncertain, but it’s certainly unlike anything fans have experienced before.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider from this major purchase is Disney’s new prominence in the streaming industry. The company is gearing up to enter the streaming world once dominated by Netflix with the subscription-based Disney+, launching later this year featuring the entire Disney library and original content from all across the company. Elsewhere, Disney will likely leverage the 20th Century Fox and Fox Television assets, a powerful key player in housing content on their alternative platforms. As Disney now owns the majority of Hulu, the company will now leverage the platform in order to channel their content that the company would like to explore that doesn’t fit within the ‘Disney brand’, and it could also possibly house the entire Fox library, incentivising users to buy a subscription with Hulu. This also means more third-party content is disappearing from Netflix, as Disney will likely pull those FOX films for their own streaming platforms, similar to what was done with its own films.
Elsewhere, Disney has gained control of some lucrative franchises, including Avatar, X-Men, and Fantastic Four, and we can be certain that they will capitalize on this new opportunity. For example, Disney recently built an Avatar themed land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and this new purchase helps guarantee the longevity of the franchise, and the ability to work freely with the expansion of the series going forward. Aside from franchises that the company feels would fit within the ‘Disney brand’, which generally maintains a certain standard of quality and is family friendly, Disney is also acquiring a plethora of ongoing franchises that include Deadpool, The Simpsons, Family Guy and a long-list of other properties that are far removed from what the company’s foundation was built on. With a long list of franchises that remove themselves from the brand’s mission, it’s clear that as Disney fans, the time has come to separate the brand from the company.
Disney has owned properties that don’t relate to their brand before: That’s what Touchstone Pictures and Miramax were intended for, or what ABC or Freeform are for today, and the company is still focused on what it was about most: creating quality, family-friendly experiences. It’s evident that the company’s larger business interests will continue to be influenced by the hugely profitable franchises it now owns. Disney has already stated that FOX will continue to operate as its own entity, and it’s clear that the future of The Walt Disney Company as we know it is going to become a lot more muddled, as some properties from 21st Century Fox make the official jump over to Disney, while some risker properties will stay behind.
Most importantly, as fans, we maintain the excitement that continues to build at The Walt Disney Company, with exciting new projects like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or Pixar’s Onward that push creativity and ambition forward, and continuing the amazing legacy that this company built up for ninety-five years. Disney may have swallowed up another legendary studio, quickly becoming the most powerful studio in Hollywood, but as fans, we are glad that its heritage and legacy will certainly always remain at the forefront, regardless of how many other companies it may acquire in the process.
Here’s to an exciting new chapter for The Walt Disney Company, and we can’t wait to see what ambitious new projects will come from it.