Is Disney's deal to buy Fox back on, and ready to close?

December 5, 2017, 11:56 AM · The Walt Disney Company is closing on a deal to acquire the film and television studios from Fox, according to industry reports.

The news of a potential deal first leaked last month, but was quickly squashed by insiders. However, talks appear to have rekindled and the two companies are said to be nearing an agreement. NBCUniversal owner Comcast is also reported to be talking with Fox about acquiring its studio assets, but the current chatter in the industry is that Disney is closer to the deal.

What would owning Fox mean for Disney? A deal would give Disney control of Fox's entertainment intellectual property, including allowing Disney to obtain distribution rights to the original Star Wars movies and fold Fox's rights to the X-Men characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Control of Fox's movie and television production studios would allow Disney to claim an even larger share of the filmed entertainment market. And all of this would provide Disney with even more content as it seeks to expand its vertical integration by launching Netflix-style streaming services to the public within the next few years.

For theme park fans, a deal wouldn't change much, save for potentially giving Disney the theme park rights to Fox IP not already licensed to others. Disney's already got Avatar. Universal's deal for The Simpsons would remain in force. That leaves Ice Age, Alien, Kingsman, The X Files, and Planet of the Apes as potential park IP that Disney could control upon completion of a sale. Sorry, but... meh.

Fox has a couple of its own theme park projects under license. Outside Kuala Lumpur, 20th Century Fox World Malaysia is under construction for a 2018 opening, as part of the Resorts World Genting integrated resort. And a 20th Century Fox World park has been announced for Dubai, although that one's been pushed back to 2020. Would Disney continue to promote the Fox brand after buying its studios? Would it fold these park projects under Disney branding, or would it just continue cashing the licensing checks and allow the parks to go on as ambassadors to a defunct brand? Take a guess because... who knows?

One more factor to consider: This isn't a reason to make the deal, but I wonder if it might provide a nice little extra benefit to Disney's CEO. It's long been whispered that Bob Iger wants to run for elected office upon retiring as Disney's chairman. Putting several billion dollars into the pocket of the guy who controls Fox News and much of the conservative media in the country might not be a bad idea, if that is the case. Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox company would retain control of Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Sports, and the Fox television network under the rumored deal.

All indications have been that Iger would run as a Democrat (and, as a resident of California, he would have to in order to retain any hope of winning an election in this state), but maybe a Fox sale would give Murdoch a few billion reasons to call the dogs off Iger for as long as possible, allowing him a better shot at the Democratic nomination, should he choose to run for President. (Don't write that off — Iger has proven himself 100 times the businessman that Donald Trump imagines himself to be.)

Fire up the speculation machine. If the deal goes down, expect an announcement by next week.

Replies (19)

December 5, 2017 at 12:07 PM · As far as I'm aware, Iger doesn't know anything about foreign policy, healthcare, education, etc.
Leave the politics to the people who actually know what they're doing.
December 5, 2017 at 12:20 PM · Didn’t Fox have a theme park proposed for Miami?
December 5, 2017 at 12:41 PM · From what I've read, the big thing here is the extra content being available for its streaming service, and having Fox's back log would be very helpful for that, particularly in targeting more mature audiences.

From the MCU perspective, the third phase will finish in the next 2 years with the 4th Avengers movie. Based on what Kevin Feige is saying, big characters will likely be dying and subsequent movies will be changing things significantly. I could imagine this being managed perfectly with a shift of focus from the Avengers to the X-men and fantastic 4. As the world's biggest movie franchise it wouldn't surprise me if this is factoring into this deal as well.

December 5, 2017 at 12:43 PM · I have to laugh at the anonymous comment about Iger staying out of politics due to his lack of knowledge of things. Does that opinion extend to the current commander in chief?
December 5, 2017 at 12:53 PM · Interesting how Disney will control much of Universal Park IP's. Universal have less flexibility to gain much needed IP from other studios as the number of studio players will shrink.

I remarked that Disney will likely own Avatar one day. I didn't think Disney will own it much sooner. It took Disney over 20 years to own Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

I would love for Disney to finally release the original Star Wars trilogy.

Anyways, Disney needs to stop milking the superhero category. It will burn out.

December 5, 2017 at 1:03 PM · I think this potential sale would ultimately be terrible for movie fans. There will be one less place for filmmakers to go to get their movies made, and there are only so many slots one studio can reasonably use to release films without starting to cannibalize itself. The end result of a Fox sale to Disney will almost certainly be many fewer movies getting made and released each year.

And that's not even getting into the deeper questions: What happens to the Fox lot? What is the status of the films currently in active development or production, with set release dates for the coming years? Will Disney take control of the entire Fox back catalogue - going back to its founding - for home video releases, and will they even bother to release classic Fox movies on home video?

As for the possibility of Iger running for office, I would like to think he would have the resources to mount an Independent campaign. Why he would want to embrace partisan labels that will serve to turn off 45(ish)% of the country (after running a company with a VERY wide appeal that transcends politics) is beyond me. At least at the presidential level, I think there's a growing hunger for viable third choice.

December 5, 2017 at 2:45 PM · Brett - Because you can’t win as an Independent in this county. It’s been proven time and again. You have to chose a side. The Democrat side clearly lines up better with Iger’s ideology.
December 5, 2017 at 3:01 PM · The guardian is reporting rumours that its actually the Murdochs who's bein charge of teh combined empire
December 5, 2017 at 3:20 PM · Donald Trump's appeal sadly has nothing to do with his actual business acumen, but the perception thereof. Iger, I'm afraid, would come off as another "above us normal folk" politician, since he's just too smart and educated to capture the imagination of middle America. He could easily be elected Governor of California, though, and it makes sense to pay off the Murdochs to leave him alone if that's the case.

The implications of the deal are far more fascinating for film and sports than theme parks, though I wouldn't mind seeing some sort of Animal Kingdom ride themed to the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, which were all good to great films. Perhaps a re-skin of Dinosaur?

December 5, 2017 at 4:54 PM · Maybe they could do a re-skin of Stitches Great Escape, and have it themed to the newly-acquired Alien franchise. Then it could be a horrible Alien that gets teleported into the theatre and runs around in the dark. And instead of Stitch snot being sprayed on the audience, it could be the drool of the Alien and the blood of its victims, as the audience is strapped into their chairs.

Oh, wait...

December 5, 2017 at 5:17 PM · We all knew Epcot was set to be reworked. Disney's current plans have since been leaked...

December 5, 2017 at 11:21 PM · A fox Disney deal might result in putting Paramount Studios and Sony Pictures into play with the buyer of one or even both studios likely being Comcast because they need more IP for Site B (aka their 3rd gate because what they have now is quite simply not enough for another park.
December 6, 2017 at 2:35 PM · Disney, the original story teller (borrowed from Grimm) does it again. Let's hope they won't sugarcoat Deadpool but let's do hope we get a meet and greet with him.
Can't wait to see a serious update on their bland halloween offerings with the magical 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' show in front of the castle and amazing makeovers in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique that will get you into your own Frankenfurter costume.
Alien Encounter with the real alien in Tomorrowland, FXXX part of the streaming service? So much exciting things to look forward to.
December 6, 2017 at 9:25 PM · A pretty sizable proportion of the current democratic party, has pretty
anti semetic views. A lot of democratic politicians are critical of isreal for 90 percent of their positions and decisions. Bob Iger is jewish. Maybe, he would totally disavow his heritage, but I think I have read he actually does go to temple (unlike Mr Sanders, who, if you ask him, says he is agnostic or athiest). Which the hilary clinton camp, was all too happy to spead the news about.

December 6, 2017 at 9:25 PM · A pretty sizable proportion of the current democratic party, has pretty
anti semetic views. A lot of democratic politicians are critical of isreal for 90 percent of their positions and decisions. Bob Iger is jewish. Maybe, he would totally disavow his heritage, but I think I have read he actually does go to temple (unlike Mr Sanders, who, if you ask him, says he is agnostic or athiest). Which the hilary clinton camp, was all too happy to spead the news about.

December 7, 2017 at 10:11 AM · Bob Iger is likely to remain CEO beyond 2019 once this deal goes through. This means his retirement from Disney and his Presidential campaign is unlikely happen. That's actually good news. President of Mickey Mouse and Avatar is a much better fit.
December 7, 2017 at 10:55 AM · Let’s put aside politics and talk about the most important part of a potential deal: If Disney owned Fox, it would mean the return of the Fox searchlight introduction before the beginning of new Star Wars movies!
December 7, 2017 at 6:52 PM · Fox controls six Star Wars movies, two Marvel families, and Avatar - when you put it in that context, it is completely understandable why Disney would consider buying them.
December 11, 2017 at 6:24 AM · Hope Comcast gets Fox instead. Disney is already too powerful.

Comparing Iger's business acumen's to Trumps's isn't saying much. Disney is the house that Walt built. It runs itself.

Iger has made a lot of bad decisions: MyMagic+, Shanghai Disney, systematic underinvestment in American parks, missing out on Harry Potter, throwing good money after bad in Paris and Hong Kong.

The few good decisions Iger made were no brainers that any idiot could have made. I agree with Anton M: Iger has no intention of leaving Di$ney ever. The shareholders will have to pry Disney loose from Iger's cold dead fingers.

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