Now playing: A deal between two U.S. entertainment icons will change what sports you watch at home and even what superheroes battle it out on the big screen.
The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) is acquiring a collection of 21st Century Fox (FOX) assets put up for sale by Fox's Murdoch family as it streamlines Fox's holdings and focuses on the news business.
The $52.4 billion all-stock deal, announced Thursday, will shift some Fox television- and movie-making studios to Disney, as well as rights to some characters from the Marvel comic book universe that Fox now holds.
Such a deal bulks up the kinds of shows Disney can provide viewers over one of its forthcoming streaming networks, essential as Disney gets ready to yank its shows off Netflix in 2019. It also gives Disney a bigger stake in television-streaming service Hulu, and give it part-ownership of an international network to distribute movies like Beauty and the Beast.
And it will likely make it easier for subscribers to the soon-to-be launched streaming service of ESPN, the sports network owned by Disney, to watch local sports. That's because among the assets acquired is Fox Sports' vast regional networks.
Here's a breakdown of how the blockbuster deal may shake out whether you're a sports, comic-book hero or movie fan — or all three.
For super-hero fans
Deadpool is as close to a blockbuster franchise as FOX has. (Photo: FOX.)
Buying 20th Century Fox's film and TV studios could help Disney fulfill many comic book fans' long-awaited dream: A return of the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters to the original owner. Before Disney bought Marvel in 2009, the comic-book publisher sold off rights of several popular characters — including X-Men's Deadpool and Wolverine — to Fox and other studios.
The sale gives Marvel, home to the Iron Man, Captain America and Avengers franchises, the ability to fully integrate the popular characters into future films together.
One catch: that may take awhile. Fox has three X-Men films in various stages of post-production and set for release in 2018.
Given how far along they are, these films should be released as scheduled.
But it is up in the air as to what comes next. Would Disney recast the roles? And would it change the tone?
Fox's recent adult-focused strategy has helped with the commercial and critical success of Deadpool and Logan. Both of those films were rated "R," a contrast with Disney's family-friendly brand and its PG-13 Marvel films.
Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, a Fox film) and Chris Evans (Captain America, a Disney/Marvel Studios franchise) have weighed in with their thoughts on the potential merger.
For 'Star Wars' lovers
Beyond the Marvel properties, Disney also gains 20th Century Fox's other franchises including Avatar and Planet of the Apes. Avatar is of particular value, with four sequels to 2009's record-breaking hit currently in development and set for release through 2025.
(L-R) Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Kenny Baker as R2D2, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca in a scene from the motion picture 'Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope' (Photo: Lucasfilm)
The Mouse House would gets one other highly valuable asset: The rights to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, which Fox kept in perpetuity as part of its original deal with creator George Lucas to make the first film. According to The Hollywood Reporter Fox currently also owns the rights to Episodes I, II, III, V and VI, but those are set to transfer to Disney/Lucasfilm in 2020.
Getting all the Star Wars rights under Disney's roof could finally make a long-awaited three-trilogy box-set a reality.
What this means for movies: The Marvel Cinematic Universe could get its long-awaited reunion, but at a potential cost of more adult-oriented films. Star Wars superfans might finally be able to own a full box set of movies.
For sports fans
ESPN logo (Photo: David Kohl, AP)
Disney has a new roster of sports networks to complement ESPN, and to bolster its direct-to-consumer ESPN Plus subscription streaming service expected to launch next year.
Fox owns 15 regional sports networks nationwide. These networks have broadcast rights deals with 44 of 81 Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League teams as well as broadcast rights for many Division I college sports teams in those respective areas.
Fox's 80% stake in the YES Network, which broadcasts the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets, has been speculated to go to Disney as well.
Not sold: Fox's national Fox Sports 1 network it launched — alongside FS2 — in 2013 to compete with ESPN. The company's broadcast channel, which notably broadcasts national college football games, the World Series and NFL football would also stay with Fox.
What this means for sports: While Disney-owned ESPN has rights to a variety of national broadcasts for professional baseball, football, basketball, as well as major Division I college sports, it's less deep on regional games. Fox's networks would help make ESPN's planned 2018 streaming service more attractive to sports fans that want to "cut the cord" and ditch their pay TV service.
For the Hulu binge-watcher
Hulu menu on TV screen and devices (Photo: Hulu)
All three of the major networks involved in the creation of Hulu — ABC (Disney), NBC (Comcast) and Fox — own 30% stakes in the popular streaming company (Time Warner, currently set to be purchased by AT&T, owns the other 10% through its Turner Broadcasting group).
Comcast was interested in purchasing parts of 21st Century Fox, particularly to expand its Hulu ownership according to CNBC, but backed out on Monday.
By acquiring Fox's stake, Disney would up its share in the streaming platform to a majority 60% share. With Disney already announcing plans to launch a non-sports streaming platform in 2019, it is possible the company will instead look to transform Hulu into this platform, or at the very least give itself another pawn in the future streaming media battle.
The deal also bolsters Disney's traditional cable networks, adding FX and National Geographic as well as its international presence with India's Star and Fox's stake in the UK's Sky Networks.
What this means for TV fans: For the short-term don't expect much to change. But with Disney taking a controlling interest, it is possible more deals around Hulu's ownership could be on the horizon.
For the Fox News loyalist
The Disney/Fox deal is not be a complete purchase of 21st Century Fox. Fox keeps its local Fox broadcast channel (home of Sunday NFL football and popular television shows The Simpsons and Family Guy), the company's affiliate networks and Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Sports 1 cable channels.
These properties, as well as Big Ten Network will be spun off into a new company, Fox says.
What this means for news: The Murdoch family continues to run Fox News.
For those worried Disney will own too much
Big media mergers often prompt concerns that one company has too much control over the films, movies and even news you consume. Could monopoly worries derail it?
The Justice Department will be required to approve Disney's acquisitions. But the two companies seem to have structured the transaction to smooth over regulatory concerns, says Vijay Jayant, an analyst with investment banking advisory firm Evercore ISI, in a note to investors last week. “We see no obvious regulatory issues without the inclusion of Fox broadcast.”
That's because the FCC prohibits the one company from owning two of the top four major broadcast networks.
However, a combined Disney-Fox movie studio commanding one-third of the U.S. box office or more could lead theater owners to “make a case for conditions related to film rental rates,” Jayant said.
Disney’s gain of Fox’s regional sports networks could raise some sports rights concerns, but fewer than would have come had it attempted to add Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 to its ESPN family, he said.
But Michael Nathanson of New York tech research firm MoffettNathanson wonders whether the marriage of ESPN with Fox’s regional sports networks “would be allowed” because the combination would make “Disney’s hand even stronger vis à vis distributors.”
What this means for 'too big' worries: If you don't like this merger it is possible regulators may change parts of it, but probably not the whole deal.
Contributing: A.J. Perez and Mike Snider