Disney’s empire continues to grow.
The company confirmed today it had acquired $52.4 billion worth of 21st Century Fox’s stock, taking over the rights to humongous properties like the X-Men franchise, The Simpsons and cable networks like FX. The deal also affirms that Disney would have a majority stake in Hulu, combining its 30 percent minor stake with Fox’s 30 percent stake. Certain networks, like Fox Sports, will be left out of the deal, a press release confirmed today.
It’s a big deal — in fact, it’s one of the biggest, most historic deals in the entertainment industry. It also poses more than a couple of questions that need to be answered. The deal is in its preliminary stages and we don’t have much information about what this means for the future of entertainment.
As we dig into the story for more information, consider this a basic guide to understanding what’s happened so far.
Does Disney own all of Fox?
No, Disney doesn’t own all of Fox. Disney owns 20th Century Fox studios, both on the film and television side. The company also acquired the rights to certain stand-alone ventures, like the aforementioned 30 percent stake in Hulu. Disney now owns a large portion of 21st Century Fox — including the company’s 20th Century Fox film and television divisions — but does not have total control of the entire company.
What does Fox still have ownership of?
That’s a good question. 21st Century Fox will take some of its most successful ventures, including Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox Sports, Fox News, Fox Television Stations and other assets, and spin them off into a new company. This new company is reported to have a revenue of $10 billion, and will reportedly take in earnings of $2.8 billion.
Internationally, 21st Century Fox will attempt to acquire the remaining 61 percent stake in European satellite division, Sky.
Okay, but how will this affect movies?
This is the most asked question. Disney now owns the rights to a number of popular franchises, including the X-Men, Deadpool and the Fantastic Four. Here’s what you need to remember: Disney’s film division is, and will always be, a brand geared toward children and teenagers. That means we will probably see the Fantastic Four and the X-Men cross paths with the Avengers at some point.
When Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige spoke to Vanity Fair last month, he admitted he would love to have access to the X-Men.
“Well, the problem is whenever I say anything about it, it becomes 15 headlines,” Feige said. “So would we like to? Yeah, of course. Is there any movement toward it at all? No. Same thing. Same status.”
Yes, the X-Men are probably going to unite with the Avengers. But will Deadpool? Probably not. Deadpool works because of the R-rating. He can be the character we all love and know him to be. Disney isn’t going to try and work on a Deadpool/Spider-Man crossover. It doesn’t make sense for their business. Disney CEO, Bob Iger, reiterated during a recent investor call that Disney doesn’t “have any plans to make R-rated Marvel movies.”
[Update: Iger announced today the company is committed to working on Deadpool sequels and foresees a future where Marvel Studios could have an R-rated brand, “as long as we let audiences know what’s coming.”]
The Fantastic Four and the X-Men, on the other hand, are exactly what Disney and Marvel are looking for to keep fans excited as the Marvel Cinematic Universe heads into its fourth phase.
There are also other, more prestigious movies and franchises that Disney now owns the rights to. Alien and Avatar are some of the biggest, along with the backlog of director Wes Anderson’s work. Other notable titles include Oscar-award nominated movie Hidden Figures, Gone Girl, The Shape of Water and The Martian.
You said Disney now owns the rights to The Simpsons, right? Will it change?
Probably not. Disney wants ownership of the series, but it seems less likely that Disney is going to get involved with the day-to-day production. Disney is going to benefit from syndication and the distribution of Fox’s best, most beloved series. This is an opportunity for Disney to own material it can license out, not a renovation project the company wants to undertake.
Can you break it down further?
Absolutely. A series of graphics created by The Geek Twins over the years illustrates just how mergers and sales affect rights ownerships. Here are five graphics, including today’s gigantic acquisition.
What does this mean for video games?
At least on the Marvel side, it might mean a renewed focus on characters from the X-Men and Fantastic Four. While Marvel’s games division and its game publishing partners have had access to characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, The Thing and Dr. Doom, characters from the X-Men and Fantastic Four have often been downplayed (or straight up excluded) in favor of focusing on characters from The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man. The recently released Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was totally devoid of X-Men, for example. That will almost assuredly change.
Most important question: Will the original Star Wars fanfare return?
We can only hope! The original Star Wars fanfare was, “as composed by Alfred Newman, the music director for 20th Century-Fox Studios (as it was known) from 1940 into the 1960s,” as we wrote last month. “In 1953 he gave it the ‘CinemaScope extension’ (to note the film was shot in the new widescreen format developed by Fox).”
Now that Disney owns the rights to 20th Century Fox, the original fanfare could make a return for the first time since Disney acquired Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise in 2012.
Polygon has reached out to Disney for comment on that exact question and will update if we get an answer. More information is expected to come in the following weeks and months. We’ll keep an eye on the story as it develops.