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A whole new world: Disney gains X-Men, Fantastic Four rights as Fox deal closes

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2017

In a merger that’s endured weeks of on-again, off-again speculation, Disney has finally picked up the rights to 21st Century Fox's TV and movie properties under the company's media umbrella after the two companies closed today on a merger reportedly valued at $52.4 billion.

It’s a mammoth deal that vastly expands Disney’s brand offerings, adding Fox’s Marvel properties — X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool — as well as James Cameron’s four planned Avatar sequels and a host of other standalone film franchises.

The deal gives Disney control over Fox’s film studios, allowing the company to take direction over projects both finished and in the works, from New Mutants to X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the forthcoming Deadpool sequel and James Franco’s Multiple Man — among many more.

It also hands several Fox television properties over to Disney, including 20th Century Fox TV, the FX channel, the National Geographic cable network group, a host of regional TV sports networks, and Rupert Murdoch's 30 percent ownership stake in Hulu.

The ripple effects from an acquisition of this scale, made by a media titan that already banks its own in-house film offerings, Pixar features, and live-action productions — along with the entire Star Wars movie universe — are nearly impossible to predict. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is reportedly already a fan of the merger, since it allows new possibilities to introduce several of Marvel’s solo mutants into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe for the big screen.

Disney CEO Bob Iger will remain on board at Disney to oversee the merger through 2021, upending earlier speculation that he might retire in 2019 to mount a campaign to become the next U.S. president.

In addition to bolstering Disney’s brand offerings, the deal also expands the company’s potential market share to position it as an even larger presence in the streaming video space.

Prior to the merger, Iger already had that Disney’s planned streaming service will compete with Netflix by undercutting the streaming giant in price, and by focusing its offerings on curated quality (think Marvel, in-house Disney fare, and the newly announced breed of Star Wars content) rather than on sheer quantity.

How the Fox acquisition, with all the additional content it brings, might affect Disney's streaming video strategy going forward remains to be seen — but it stands to reason it'll only help bolster its eventual position.