By: Brandon McClure
On December 14, 2017, Disney announced it had made a deal to buy 20th Century Fox for $52.4 Billion. After a small bidding war with Comcast, Disney sealed the deal with $71.3 Billion in July of 2018. Since then we haven’t heard much and the deal is expected to be finalized in June of this year.
Last week brought us the first piece of concrete news since. Fox Broadcasting Network will be rebranded as Fox Entertainment. When the deal first went through, the idea was that anything not included in the buyout will be rebranded as ‘New Fox’. Fox Entertainment will be the home of the Fox Television Network, Fox News and various other cable television outlets.
Charlie Collier, CEO of the newly minted Fox Entertainment, made the announcement on Feb. 6th, saying “we’ve renamed simply Fox Entertainment. Fox Entertainment is an open canvas upon which we’ll create new ways to do business. It’s a startup company, albeit with roughly 26 billion dollars in valuation.”
The other major announcement with this new name was that they have launched ‘Sidecar’. Run by former Fox President, Gail Berman, ‘Sidecar’ is described as a “content development accelerator” and “will be focused on incubating programming first for Fox and where relevant for third party platforms,” says Collier.
According to Deadline “SideCar will develop scripted and unscripted programming designed to complement the network’s own development, with Fox Entertainment retaining ownership of all series that originate under the SideCar banner. It is designed to serve as another access point for creators to bring projects to the network, or outside platforms when appropriate.”
What this means is that content created by Fox for television, Bob’s Burgers, The Orville and The Simpsons (which has been renewed for two new seasons) will not be part of the IP that is going to Disney.
Miramx and Touchstone pictures used to be major developers within Disney. Unbreakable, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Nightmare Before Christmas all came out of Touchstone for example, but since Bob Iger took over in 2005, Touchstone’s content has been coming out at a slower pace (They haven’t put a film out in 3 years), and Miramx was sold in 2010 and now exists as an independent studio. Those moves would prove to be the first step in what lead to Disney becoming the major box office draw it is now.
After the purchase of Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012, Iger had no need for mature content. The success of Star Wars, Marvel and the “live action remakes”, as fans call them, proved to be all Iger needed to make Disney into the billion dollar money maker they are now.
With the acquisition of 20th Century Fox, many were left wondering if Fox would continue to operate much in the same way that Touchstone and Miramax did in the 90s and early 2000s. It was a fear that properties like Aliens and Predator would be lost to history because of Iger’s more family friendly approach. During a first quarter earnings call, Bob Iger said “We do believe there is room for the Fox properties to exist without significant Disney influence over the nature of the content. Meaning that we see that there certainly popular amongst Marvel fans for the R-rated Deadpool films, for instance, we’re going to continue in that business, and there might be room for more of that.” While not a guarantee, this certainly suggests that the dust hasn’t settled on the 20th Century Fox fanfare at the beginning of the movies.
Disney+, Disney’s upcoming streaming service, was said to not contain mature content, and will be geared towards family friendly entertainment. Since Disney’s purchase of Fox will give them a majority 60% stake in Hulu, it’s been said that, that is where that type of content will go. It would seem that is likely, as Marvel and Disney announced a series of adult oriented animated shows, The Offenders, will be coming to Hulu.
Fox currently puts out 12-14 movies every year, not counting the films from Fox Searchlight (Which won a Best Picture Oscar last year) and Fox 2000. Under Disney that number will reduce to 4-5 films a year, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Fox currently has a number of projects in development, such as a prequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service and an adaptation of the stage musical, Monty Python’s Spamalot, and it is unclear how many of these projects will survive the merger.
Even though movies like Deadpool 2 and Bohemian Rhapsody did incredibly well at the box office, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Fox had “dismal” year. Perhaps Rupert Murdock did see the writing on the wall and figured the best way to save his company would be to sell to another. Perhaps with this new deal, Disney could find a renewed interest and success with more mature and original content, since their current endeavors don’t work out so well.
It is important to remember that a merger like this hasn’t happened before in many of our lifetimes and the effects it has could be unforeseeable. 20th Century Fox has a long legacy in the film industry and, no matter what happens next, it will be a shame that it will no longer exist, in its current form at least.
Much is still to be determined it would seem, but this is the first look at what a post Disney/Fox merger world will look like. As the major studios in Hollywood reduce from six to five, only time will tell what long term effects this will have on the ever changing industry.