It’s Official: Disney is Buying Fox for $52 Billion

Disney’s impending worldwide takeover has taken a major step forward with the acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

It’s official: The Walt Disney Co. is set to acquire Rupert Murdoch’s massive empire for (put that pinky up to your lips) $US52.4 billion. The reported enterprise value of this history-making merger: $US69 billion.

It’s a huge takeover, but as Variety reports, Disney won’t be getting everything; 21st Century Fox will be moving Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox Sports, Fox News, Fox Television Stations and a few other assets into a new spinoff company.

“The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from 21st Century Fox reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible and convenient than ever before,” Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger – who now has an extended contract lasting until the end of 2021 in order to oversee the merger – said in a statement.

“We’re honoured and grateful that Rupert Murdoch has entrusted us with the future of businesses he spent a lifetime building, and we’re excited about this extraordinary opportunity to significantly increase our portfolio of well-loved franchises and branded content to greatly enhance our growing direct-to-consumer offerings. The deal will also substantially expand our international reach, allowing us to offer world-class storytelling and innovative distribution platforms to more consumers in key markets around the world.”

“Significantly increase our portfolio” indeed. The deal will see Disney own various businesses under the 20th Century Fox umbrella, which includes over 300 international channels, 22 sports networks, National Geographic, and FX Networks. Plus, Disney will also be acquiring Fox’s stakes in other companies; 30% in Hulu (which you can add to the 30% Disney already owns), 50% in Endemol Shine Group, and 39% in Sky. Sky, by the way, has been a focus for Fox. The company has been trying to acquire Sky but has been held back by British regulators not wanting to do business with the Murdochs; Disney, on the other hand, may fare better and could be acquiring Sky soon.

“The new Fox will draw upon the powerful live news and sports businesses of Fox, as well as the strength of our Broadcast network,” Rupert Murdoch said in his statement. “It is born out of an important lesson I’ve learned in my long career in media: namely, content and news relevant to viewers will always be valuable. We are excited by the possibilities of the new Fox, which is already a leader many times over.”

Of course, for fanboys and girls, this deal means something else entirely: we could be seeing the X-Men teaming up with the freakin’ Avengers. Disney will now have both Marvel and Fox, the latter of which owns the movie rights to Marvel characters such as X-Men and Fantastic Four. So yes, the dream of seeing Wolverine and, say, the Hulk together on the big screen may very well become a reality. At the very least, we may actually get a decent Fantastic Four film.

A question that many have: just how will this affect the future of the more adult-oriented comic book films Fox has seen success with lately? Deadpool and Logan were both serious hits; it remains to be seen if Disney will be taking similar chances, particularly with Deadpool. They’re primarily family-focused, after all. At least according to Iger, there’s a chance:

Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm a while back gave them the rights to all past Star Wars films bar one: franchise starter Star Wars: A New Hope, which was owned by Fox. Well, it’s Disney’s now. Expect a 4K re-release box set of every Star Wars film to be available in the next few years.

Of course, a gigantic merger like this comes with a number of concerning factors. Just how many jobs will be lost, for example, remains a big question mark. Disney gets bigger; Fox gets smaller. There’s also the fact that creators will have potentially less options when it comes to deciding on which studios to pitch to. Disney owning so much lessens the competition and ups their control – of content, choice, pricing. The company also has their streaming network on the way, and with Fox’s content now theirs, you can bet the heads at streaming giants like Netflix are starting to break a sweat.

The deal won’t be complete for another year and a half or so. That’s how long the regulatory review of the acquisition is expected to take. If, for some reason, the deal is blocked, Disney will be paying 21st Century Fox a $US2.5 billion breakup fee.

It almost goes without saying: stay tuned as this huge industry move unfolds.

20th Century Fox