It’s been a long time coming, but The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox is finally a done deal.
Thanks to a mammoth $71.3 billion purchase, Disney is now the largest traditional media company in the world. And it’s not only Robert Murdoch’s bank balance and Disney’s portfolio of assets that will get a boost; the takeover of a vast entertainment empire will have an enormous impact on the Hollywood landscape and the entertainment industry as a whole.
Here’s what Disney owns now following the acquisition of 21st Century Fox.
‘One Of The Greatest Companies In The World’
On Dec. 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced plans to acquire 21st Century Fox (20th Century Fox and other entertainment and sports assets from Rupert Murdoch’s empire) for $52.4 billion in stock.
Competition from Comcast threw a potential wrench in the plan, but Disney upped its bid to $71.3 billion and the takeover was approved by Disney shareholders on July 27, 2018. Murdoch said he believed that the deal, under the leadership of Disney chief Robert A. Iger, would create “one of the greatest companies in the world.”
Iger, 68, joined Disney’s senior management team in 1996 as Chairman of the Disney-owned ABC Group. In his current role as chairman and CEO, he was at the forefront of the acquisitions of Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009) and Lucasfilm (2012).
Iger told Business Leader the completion of the 21st Century Fox deal was “an extraordinary and historic moment” and pledged that it would “create significant long-term value for our company and our shareholders.” He added, “Combining Disney’s and 21st Century Fox’s wealth of creative content and proven talent creates the pre-eminent global entertainment company, well-positioned to lead in an incredibly dynamic and transformative era.”
Disney’s New Assets
Disney now owns the Fox film and TV studios, the FX and National Geographic cable channels, its U.S. regional sports network and international holdings, plus other investments. Fox holds onto its flagship Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox Sports, Fox Television Stations Group and the sports cable networks FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes and Big Ten Network.
The acquisition includes approximately $19.8 billion of cash and approximately $19.2 billion of debt and amounts to a total equity value of $71.3 billion. As a result, the US Securities and Exchange Commission says The Walt Disney Company’s assets now total $95.79 billion across four areas: Consumer Products ($9 billion), Disney Media Networks ($32.5 billion), Parks & Resorts ($29.5 billion) and Walt Disney Studios ($16.3 billion).
Consumer Products (CP), a division of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, creates Disney-themed merchandise like apps, books, clothing, jewelry, homeware, toys and console games. Its four strategic brands are Disney Media, Classics & Entertainment, Disney & Pixar Animation, Star Wars and Marvel. The Muppets Studio also falls under this umbrella. Disney Publishing Worldwide (DPW) is the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and magazines, creating and publishing in-house and through licensees in 68 countries.
Disney Media Networks
Disney Media Networks is the primary unit of The Walt Disney Company. It contains the company’s huge range of television networks, cable channels, associated production and distribution companies and television stations across two divisions. Thanks to the 21st Century Fox acquisition, Disney now owns ABC Entertainment, ABC News & Radio, A+E cable channel (50%), ESPN (80%), Hulu (30 %), Marvel Entertainment, Vice (10%) and Viceland.
Disney Parks & Resorts
Many people still associate Disney primarily with Disneyland, Disney World and other Disney parks and resorts.
Walt Disney supervised the creation of the original Disneyland (now Disneyland Park), which was the first of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. It opened on July 17, 1955. On Oct. 1, 1971, Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida (consisting of just the Magic Kingdom and two resorts at the time) opened.
The other Disney resorts are Disneyland Parks, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, Shanghai Disney Resort and Tokyo Disney Resort.
Film And TV
Disney’s film production assets now include Pixar (“Toy Story” and “The Incredibles”), Lucasfilm (“Star Wars”) and Marvel (“Black Panther” and “Iron Man”). The deal gives it control of 20th Century Fox’s film archive, which is one of the largest back catalogs in entertainment, and all of 20th Century Television’s TV shows. This brings together huge modern franchises like “Deadpool,” “The X-Men” and “Avatar” with timeless animated classics like “Cinderella,” “Dumbo,” “Fantasia” and “Pinocchio.”
A New Home For Star Wars
Hardcore fans of “Star Wars” will be excited about one particular element of the acquisition. When Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion on Oct. 30, 2012, the deal didn’t include one thing: the exclusive distribution rights to “Star Wars” (later renamed “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope”). These belonged to Fox. However, the 2oth Century Fox deal means that missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle is finally in place. Disney could potentially release the original theatrical cut of “A New Hope” from 1977, which isn’t currently available.
Star Wars Soundtrack
Another matter of debate in “Star Wars” fan circles is whether the original (and iconic) 20th Century Fox theme will be resurrected by Disney for future installments of the franchise. The percussion and brass composition that was the soundtrack for the opening of the first six “Star Wars” films is absent from the Disney releases (“The Force Awakens” in 2015, “Rogue One” in 2016, “The Last Jedi” in 2017 and “Solo” in 2018).
One of the most lucrative new franchises in Disney’s hands is the “Avatar” franchise. The original 2009 film remains the highest-grossing film of all time, bringing in $2.8 billion at the box office.
Four “Avatar” sequels are currently in development, which are reported (but unconfirmed) to be titled “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Avatar: The Seed Bearer,” “Avatar: The Tulkun Rider” and “Avatar: The Quest for Eywa.” The first sequel, which brings back original cast members Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang, opens in theaters Dec. 18, 2020.
Box Office Hits
Other well-known Fox franchises that performed well at the box office include “Independence Day,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Alien,” “Predator,” “Night at the Museum” and “Home Alone.”
Of course, Disney had no shortage of top-grossing movies before the acquisition. “Star Wars” and “Toy Story” aside, it counts “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Iron Man” among its biggest franchise hits. Some of Disney’s biggest such films in 2018 include “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Black Panther,” and “Incredibles 2.”
Critically Acclaimed Movies
Following the 21st Century Fox deal, Disney owns Fox Searchlight Pictures, which focuses on independent movies and has won four Best Picture Academy Awards in the past decade. (FYI, no Disney film has ever bagged the Best Picture Oscar.) At the 2019 Academy Awards, Fox Searchlight had the most nominations — 10 for “The Favourite,” three for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and two for “Isle of Dogs.” The bigger budget 20th Century Fox had five nominations for the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Dominating TV Production
Before the 21st Century Fox deal, Disney already owned four of the major TV network players: ABC, ESPN, History and A&E Network. In 2018, the most-watched network was NBC, with an average of 7.8 million viewers, followed by CBS (7.3 million viewers) and then ABC (5.4 million viewers). Fox was fourth on the list, with an average 4.4 million viewers. The addition of Fox’s television studios makes Disney the dominant force in TV production.
One of ABC’s biggest hits, “Modern Family” (which attracts an average of 5 million viewers per week) is produced by 20th Century Fox Television. Other network hits from Fox include “Empire,” which airs on Fox, and “This Is Us,” which airs on NBC.
Fox-produced shows like the live-action series “The Gifted” and the “X-Files” revival also appear on Fox. Animated TV shows “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “Bob’s Burgers” are also now owned by Disney, as they are made by Fox Television Animation, a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox Television.
Mammoth Back Catalog
Another 20th Century Fox Television subsidiary is Fox 21 Television Studios, which focuses on programming for cable channels. It was involved in Showtime’s “Homeland” and FX’s “American Horror Story,” among many others.
The acquisition also includes FX Networks, FX Productions studio, and all production and distribution rights to Fox’s entire back catalog. This includes “Arrested Development,” “Glee,” “24,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Hill Street Blues.”
Goodbye To The ‘Big Six’
Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox is the end of an era in Hollywood, the so-called “Big Six” — 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures.
The oldest American film studio, Universal Pictures, is responsible for the “Jurassic Park,” “Despicable Me” and “The Fast and the Furious” franchises. With Disney taking control of the 104-year-old 20th Century Fox, the “Big Six” is now reduced to the “Big Five.”
Box Office Leader
In 2018, Disney took a 26 percent share of the U.S. box office, making it the market leader. Following the Fox takeover, its share has increased to 36 percent, with its closest rival trailing behind with 16 percent. Disney reported more than $7.3 billion in worldwide ticket sales in 2018 (the second biggest year in industry history, behind its own record of $7.6 billion in 2016). Its hit “Black Panther” was the year’s highest-grossing film in North America with more than $700 million in ticket sales.
Mega Movie Lineup For 2019
2019 looks set to be even more of a bumper year for Disney at the box office. New titles include sequels to “Avengers,” “Toy Story,” “Frozen” and “Star Wars” and live-action remakes of classics like “Dumbo,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”
Plus, of course, there are the upcoming Fox releases, such as “Dark Phoenix,” “New Mutants,” “Ad Astra” and “The Call of the Wild.” Looking further ahead, Fox movies scheduled for 2020 include the feature-length “Bob’s Burgers,” “Free Guy” and the next installment in the “Kingsman” series.
It Might Not Be Good News For X-Men Fans
While the takeover brings the majority of the Marvel team back together, this doesn’t necessarily mean more X-Men movies. According to Iger, Disney will carry on making Deadpool movies (as well as other R-rated Marvel adventures) but there hasn’t been any official word on the X-Men’s fate. However, two inherited X-Men films are due to be released in 2019: “Dark Phoenix” on June 7 and “The New Mutants” on August 2.
As part of the deal with Fox, Disney is reportedly taking on 15,400 employees. However, in order to keep its promise of $2 billion of savings to investors, Disney has to cut jobs — around 3,000 or more, with Fox staff said to be first in the firing line.
Layoffs started in senior management in the Fox film division only two days after the deal was completed, including President of Domestic Distribution Chris Aronson, pictured below with “Bohemian Rhapsody” star Rami Malek.
Overlapping divisions such as marketing, distribution and home entertainment will most likely be the next targets.
New Global Streaming Service To Rival Netflix
Content will include films from the “Star Wars” and Marvel series as well as “The Mandalorian,” the first live-action “Star Wars” TV series ever, and a revival of the animated series “The Clone Wars,” which ended on Cartoon Network in 2014.
Fox Will Remain A Media Force
By keeping control of Fox News and the Fox Sports broadcasting business, Rupert Murdoch maintains his position as a media mogul, despite having sold off his international entertainment assets.
“Are we retreating? Absolutely not,” he said when the sale to Disney was announced in December 2017. “I am a news man with a competitive spirit. Fox News is probably the strongest brand in all of television. We are pivoting at a pivotal moment.”
Mixed Reactions From The Public
Many people are excited about Disney+, and Marvel film fans are particularly psyched about the prospect of Wolverine, Cyclops and the Human Torch — who were owned by Fox — finally appearing onscreen beside their fellow Disney-owned Marvel heroes. But not everyone is happy about the acquisition, taking to social media to express their concerns that Disney now has a monopoly on the entertainment industry and is in a prime position to drive up prices across their services.
Here’s a tweet from @adamchitwood, for example:
This sucks. All three of those films are prime examples of the kinds of movies Disney would *not* make, thus why Fox as an independent studio was valuable. A different, separate studio willing to take a gamble on important and teen-centric stories, now gone. https://t.co/pNv3NZR2Fl
— Adam Chitwood (@adamchitwood) March 21, 2019
Deadpool Does Disney
Arguably the best reaction to the news came from “Deadpool”‘s Ryan Reynolds. On Twitter, the actor posted a picture of himself as Deadpool wearing Mickey Mouse ears while waving out the back of a school bus which read “Disney.” The caption reads, “Feels like the first day of ‘Pool.” It didn’t take long for Disney to welcome Deadpool into its fold. He’s joined the likes of Mickey Mouse and Woody from “Toy Story” at the top of the official Walt Disney website.
Feels like the first day of ‘Pool. pic.twitter.com/QVy8fCxgqr
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) March 19, 2019