It’s been a long time coming, with more twists and turns than the Millennium Falcon fleeing TIE fighters through an asteroid field. But the studio that owns Star Wars, Marvel Studios, Indiana Jones, The Muppets, Toy Story, and Mickey Mouse himself has finally taken ownership of Deadpool, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, American Horror Story, The Simpsons, Avatar, and so much more.
Shareholders for both Walt Disney Studios and 21st Century Fox agreed today to finally close the long-brewing deal that sells most of Fox’s entertainment assets over to the Mouse House. The $71.3 billion agreement puts a bow on what’s been a long and arduous process, for both studio execs and legions of fretful fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular — fans who’ve wondered whether the Wolverine might ever have the chance to board Peter Quill’s Benatar, or step out of the shadows in the Avengers’ fight against Thanos.
Most everything that the two groups approved this morning already had been decided. In addition to 20th Century Fox Entertainment and its studio subsidiaries, including Fox's Marvel properties, Disney acquired Fox's share of Hulu, as well as a 39 percent stake in Europe's Sky TV, which Comcast also is actively attempting to acquire. The doubling of Disney's Hulu shares (making it the majority owner, with 60 percent) comes as Disney is preparing the launch of its own streaming platform to compete with Netflix and other giants in the streaming space.
Disney also agreed to leave out Fox’s roster of 22 regional sports channels, as well as a number of live news and entertainment companies under the Fox umbrella. Those 21st Century Fox assets left out of the Disney acquisition, including Fox News, Fox Sports, and Fox Broadcasting, are being consolidated under a new entity described in pre-merger talks as “New Fox.”
The saga that ultimately led to Disney’s takeover of Fox began in December of 2017, when longtime Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch and Disney’s Bob Iger hammered out early details of a merger in London, where Disney’s The Last Jedi was holding its red carpet premiere. With board approval from Fox, things moved swiftly, and by Dec. 14 the two companies made the announcement: Disney would hand over $52.4 billion in stock for the rights to the bulk of Fox’s entertainment empire.
The news sent shockwaves not only through the two studios’ extensive fandoms, but through the creative community as well. Everyone from James Gunn to Ryan Reynolds to Stan Lee had something to say about the merger — and most of it was positive — but there was still a lengthy, 18-month chasm of regulatory checkpoints yawning before the deal could officially be finalized.
A crucial federal court decision negating antitrust concerns in AT&T’s takeover bid for Time Warner introduced a new, chaotic twist into the proceedings in early June. The court decision emboldened Comcast executives to accelerate their own competing play for Fox, and before 24 hours had passed following the AT&T ruling, Comcast ( (the parent company of NBC Universal, which owns SYFY WIRE) had eclipsed Disney’s original offer with a whopping $65 billion, all-cash bid.
Disney retrenched, and by June 20 had put together the counter-offer that won Fox over for good: $71.3 billion in both stock and cash, with the stipulation that Disney would leave Fox’s network of cable sports channels out of the package. The U.S. Department of Justice approved Disney’s bid on June 27, and Fox — whose stock value had all the while been leaping as the two media titans warred over its prized assets — accepted.
Now that Disney and Fox are one, the creative canvas that beckons new franchise crossovers, as well as Disney’s own spin on Fox’s properties, is pretty much blank. A lot of digital ink’s been spilled since last December over all the things that Disney might do with Fox’s Marvel brands, as well as how the family-friendly studio will approach Fox’s darker, R-rated fare like Deadpool.
Now that the die has been cast for one of the biggest mergers in entertainment history, the truly meaningful speculation can, at long last, begin in earnest. Let us know what you hope to see now that Disney's in charge of your favorite Fox franchises.