The deal grants Disney ownership of Fox's film and TV assets which include Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000 Pictures, Fox Family and Fox Animation, Fox TV's creative units, Twentieth Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox21, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, Fox Networks Group International and Star India.
What does it mean for TV?
Disney won’t automatically get control of every show airing on the Fox broadcasting network. For instance, Gotham is a WB production that airs on the Fox network, so Disney won’t have any rights to the programme.
But Disney will get access to shows produced by 20th Century Fox TV on other television channels, including This is Us on NBC and Modern Family on ABC. Other TV assets that Disney have acquired include American Horror Story, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Americans, The Simpsons and Family Guy. They also get the back catalogue to TV shows including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, MASH and 24.
Disney also get the 39% stake Fox has in Sky, as well as international sports outlets like Fox Deportes and Sky Sports.
What does it mean for Film?
In terms of film assets, Disney now has creative rights to the Planet of the Apes and Alien franchises as well as the original Star Wars movie, Episode Four: A New Hope (1977). Disney now also have access to Marvel characters and franchises like the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool, Doctor Doom, Silver Surfer, and Galactus which could finally mean that a Wolverine/Avengers film is on the table.
It is estimated that the merger gives Disney control of 40% of the theatrical box office. This is perhaps bad news for independent cinema, as Disney demands a larger cut of ticket sales for their films compared to other studios, and are also the strictest in terms of the conditions they impose on both independent and multiplex cinemas.
Smaller, independent picture houses may struggle to meet Disney’s screening demands and so cinema-goers may be faced with steep price increases or a reduced range of films.
That is not to say that Disney has never supported independent talent, directors or filmmakers. David Lowery is just one example.
What does it mean for the future of streaming services?
Disney now also have Fox's 30% stake in Hulu, giving Walt Disney a 60% controlling stake in total. Disney is apparently in ongoing talks with AT&T in an effort to get a further 10% stake in the streaming platform.
If it succeeds in acquiring AT&T’s minority stake then Hulu is anticipated to house more adult-oriented content, since Disney’s own streaming service, Disney+, isn’t expected to stream R-rated content. The upcoming Disney+ streaming service will offer the entire Disney film catalogue, in addition to new Star Wars and Marvel series.
The full effects of the Disney-Fox merger are yet to be seen, but it certainly seems like the studio will be able to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon as well as Apple’s new streaming service, Apple TV+, in the battle for dominance in the increasingly popular world of streaming.
What does it mean for creativity?
It’s quite complicated to figure out exactly what effects the deal could have on creatives working in the industry as it depends where Disney’s priorities lie in the next few years. We spoke to some of our expert lecturers at SAE to unpick what impact the deal could have on the future of TV and Film.
Francesco Sticchi, a Digital Film Production lecturer at SAE Oxford, expressed his concern that Disney's market gain will create a sort of monopoly that may stifle creativity. He said:
“It's a very complex topic, but in general I am very critical of this event, as well as the economic behaviors of the majors in the last 3-4 decades. I think it shows the exasperation of monopolistic practices (now unfortunately the antitrust seems not to work anymore) which are destroying variety and creativity. The business model used by the majors is only that of saturating the market, and endlessly looking for Blockbusters and pre-sold audiences, relentlessly denying any possibility for innovation in style, which then becomes the priority of 'indie' cinemas around the globe, with films that are always less distributed and difficult to see in cinemas. This model, furthermore, does not have any long term strategy apart from that of 'buying competitors' as Rockefeller, and I think the endless process of M&A then also reveals a very weak creative and productive structure which will fall down as soon as the Marvel Universe or the Star Wars reboot show a bit of fatigue. In the past Hollywood managed to get out from crises by investing in new directors and ideas, now unfortunately I don't see that and whether or not it will continue, the actual model is, in my opinion, absolutely detrimental for creativity.”
"STUDENTS OF FILM WILL FIND THEMSELVES INCREASINGLY TORN IN A WORLD OF INSANELY LARGE BUDGET FILMS THAT WILL BE DEMANDING LOCAL FILM RESOURCES AT RANDOM INTERVALS, AND SMALL BUDGET FILMS WITH VERY LITTLE MONEY TO SPARE. THE HOPE IS THAT BECAUSE THE ONLINE WORLD IS STILL A FLEDGELING ONE, SOME DRAMATIC TRENDS WILL PROVIDE REAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR FILMMAKERS WANTING TO MAKE MORE DIVERSE AND PERSONAL FILMS."
- SIMON PARNHAM, DIGITAL FILM PRODUCTION LECTURER AT SAE GLASGOW
Simon Parnham, Digital Film Production lecturer at SAE Glasgow said:
“This is a complex situation. The creative industries as a whole have been moving towards larger conglomerates in all of its iterations (music, film, games, etc), and this is just one more example of this. In a world of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel films, intellectual property will only prove increasingly important to garner interest towards online streaming services like Disney+ to drive audiences away from competition like Netflix. Fox has a good number of outstanding Star Wars assets, alongside Marvel properties like X-Men. In the end, this world of high-concept cinema is becoming increasingly far-removed from independent film. It's very much in the hands of larger online distribution networks like Netflix to provide contexts for smaller and mid-range films, such as the recent Academy winner, Roma. It will depend on how market trends develop, and whether audiences respond well to such efforts by Netflix. However, no one will be able to compete with the marketing clout of Disney after a purchase like this, so it would need to be somewhat of a grassroots move, but stranger things have happened in an online world. Students of film will find themselves increasingly torn in a world of insanely large budget films that will be demanding local film resources at random intervals, and small budget films with very little money to spare. The hope is that because the online world is still a fledgeling one, some dramatic trends will provide real opportunities for filmmakers wanting to make more diverse and personal films.”
It seems like the acquisition will affect every level of the Film and TV industry, from the creatives who make the shows and films, right up to the fans that enjoy this content. Whilst some fans are looking forward for crossovers and mash-ups which may arise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, others will undoubtedly be worried about what the takeover may mean for independent cinema.