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Disney, Fox deal could mean cheaper streaming, changing of the guard

Disney announced Thursday they have reached a deal to purchase the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s media empire, spinning off its news and sports divisions while acquiring its most popular entertainment licenses.

Depending on what your taste in movies is like, this deal is either the greatest thing ever or the sign of the end times. It could mean a more robust and cheaper streaming service enters the game from Disney. It also means a former Fox executive could wind up running the House of Mouse.

The deal means Disney, which owns Marvel Studios, now has access to a huge portfolio of movie licenses Marvel sold off to avoid bankruptcy years ago. This includes movie rights to the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and non-Marvel properties such as The Simpsons.

It also gives Disney a controlling stake in Hulu, positioning it to be a much bigger and scarier competitor to Netflix. Disney already announced plans to make their own streaming services, one for sports and ESPN and the other for entertainment. Disney CEO Bob Iger said once their properties are off Netflix in 2019 they’ll be able to set up a service “substantially below” Netflix’s prices.

As NPR reports, the deal also seems largely driven on Fox’s end by a fear that their massive, $60 billion media empire wasn’t big enough to compete with the likes of Amazon and Netflix in the entertainment game. It’s a similar trajectory as Jeff Bewkes at Time Warner, who is seeking regulatory approval to sell his company to AT&T.

NPR’s David Folkenflik says there’s also opportunity in the deal for James Murdoch, son of Fox founder Rupert Murdoch and current 21st Century Fox CEO. James will help with the transition, according to Iger, and could be groomed to replace him in a few years. Iger’s term as CEO is set to be extended into 2021, and Rupert Murdoch has urged Disney to keep his son to oversee the former Fox holdings, giving James more time to prove his value to the company.


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