Ever since the announcement that Disney had struck a $52 billion deal to absorb much of 21st Century Fox, we’ve been daydreaming about what kind of on-screen romantic tension could one day exist if Storm and Tony Stark ever find their way into the same movie — as if the deal’s implied Marvel family reunion were a matter of when and not if.
But, thanks to the strange intersection of federal regulatory requirements, present-day politics, and a media marketplace that’s shifting with supersonic speed, we’re beginning to learn just how tenuous the Disney deal's future actually might be.
Market watchers are cautioning that the ultimate fate of the Disney-Fox merger may soon be read in the regulatory tea leaves surrounding the outcome of another unresolved media takeover: AT&T’s $85 billion mega-bid to buy Time Warner.
The U.S. Department of Justice is suing to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, at least in its present form, on antitrust grounds. It’s a case that throws a lot of current variables into the spotlight: the Trump administration’s disposition toward monster media mergers, the rise of new, tech-forward media companies, and the corresponding decline of so-called “legacy” media — you know, cable companies, traditional movie and TV studios, and conventional telecommunications giants.
On top of that, Disney may not even end up winning the final bidding war for 21st Century Fox. CNBC reports that Comcast, with one eye on how the AT&T-Time Warner deal shakes out, may yet attempt to outbid Disney for ownership of 21st Century Fox’s assets.
“Disney is already preparing itself for a Comcast topping bid and considering responses in case, according to multiple people familiar with Disney's thinking,” the report states.
“…Comcast executives suggested to [Fox founder Rupert] Murdoch last year they would be willing to pay significantly more for Fox's assets than what Disney was offering, said the people. Murdoch still went with the Disney offer, in large part due to regulatory concerns with Comcast.”
While we’re still optimistic that the feds will ultimately clear the Disney-Fox merger, our dreams of seeing Baby Groot sitting on Wolverine’s knee may have to be put on indefinite hold — at least until a few more dominoes fall the right way.
It’s a super-murky topic with a lot of moving parts, and we’ll definitely leave it to the pros to hash out the finer points when it comes to the money, the politics, and the legal stuff. But for fans, the takeaway is that none of these mergers are a done deal until federal regulators give them the green light. And when the DOJ is suing to stop a union of one set of legacy media partners (AT&T and Time Warner), it could be a bad sign for the future of another (Disney and 21st Century Fox).
And that, in turn, could mean we may never get to enjoy the sight of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four joining forces to rescue the X-Men from some universe-threatening time warp…and that our kids may never get to see Deadpool, on his very best G-rated behavior, take up a guest appearance on that Very Special Episode of Doc McStuffins.