By now you will have heard about the gigantic news rocking the entertainment world, well... the other news rocking Hollywood. For fifty two billion US dollars Walt Disney Corporation is buying out Fox Entertainments debts and assets, including IPs. This is of course huge news on the superhero front, which we shall of course be discussing. However there is also a more disconcerting aspect of the deal, literally everything else. The repercussions of the largest and fourth largest entertainment companies merging will be felt throughout the entire industry and many will directly effect consumers.
As always, with any news of this nature people are instantly thinking “Well, what does this mean for me exactly?” At the moment. Nothing, sorry there are a lot of legal hoops to jump through and a deal could always fall apart along the path to ratification. One major hurdle being anti-trust regulators which if they are doing their jobs properly (and open question under current circumstances) will likely be taking a major look at this deal, for obvious reasons.
However once we move into the medium term things become a little bit more clear while also hazy. On the superhero front the most exciting and likely quickest action will take place, if Marvel Studio’s speed on integrating Spider-Man into the MCU is any indication. As there are key characters and concepts that will be obvious additions to the MCU.
One character I am convinced will be a major force following Infinity War is the amazing (in the comics and television) Doctor Doom a character never done justice on the big screen. Dooms addition to the MCU is without any doubt is a cause for much joy as we may finally seen a proper adaptation of the complex and intimidating figure.
Moving on from Doom himself, I feel the Fantastic Four of which his rights are a part of will be harder fit. This is due to the fact there has been no comic property worse handled in recent years then the first family of Marvel. One could argue Spider-Man in the past ten years has made many missteps but he also made bank, say what you will about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but $700 million is nothing to sneeze at. However The Fantastic Four (2015) take of $167 million is pitiful and will likely cast a pall over any future adaptation attempt.
A bomb like that people remember and I think the House of Mouse will be very reluctant to touch the Fantastic Four proper without a very good script attached. Something that does not seem to be in the cards at the moment. Leaving Marvel Studio’s the likely option to pick and choose pieces to adapt such as the aforementioned Doctor Doom, while characters like the Silver Surfer and Galactus could make interesting additions to the cosmic side of the MCU. I would personally would watch Thor vs. the Silver Surfer film in a heartbeat.
On Deadpool and the X-Men
This leaves Fox’s two biggest superhero franchises: Deadpool and the X-Men. I will burst one bubble right now and it pains me to do this, Hugh Jackman has confirmed he will not reprise his role as Logan/Wolverine. This despite earlier indicating a spot in the MCU may make him change his retirement plans. As Logan is my second favorite film of the year next to only It I am disappointed, however it is understandable all the same.
Another wrinkle in plans regarding Deadpool and the X-Men is both those franchises are already deep in production of new films. With New Mutants dropping in April, Deadpool and Cable (Tentative Title) set for May, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix launching in November the X-Universe is set to get a whole lot bigger. Meaning fitting the whole thing into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a daunting task.
As such there is two obvious paths. Let 20th Century Fox keep doing what they have been doing perhaps with assistance from Marvel Studios or wipe the whole slate clean following Dark Phoenix and slowly integrate them into the canon of the MCU. Due the overwhelming meh response to the new cast from fans and the franchises biggest starts such as James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Michael Fassbender each becoming harder and harder to retain this might not be a bad idea.
As for Deadpool. We already have our answer the Merc with a Mouth will keep being his fourth wall breaking, irreverent, SOB he’s always been. Disney is smart they are not going to kill a franchise which first outing made a cool half billion dollars. Just don’t expect him to run into Black Panther or Spider-Man anytime soon.
From here though we must move on from the easy and fun parts to the more complicated and unnerving parts. I do want to remind you this is all speculation at the moment as honestly none of this may come to pass, only its possible it could come to pass.
First up is Hulu for you lucky Americans. At the moment Hulu is owned by a multi-party consortium with Disney having a 27% stake and Fox at 30%. Following the merger Disney will be the main shareholder of Hulu with a 57% majority, bringing Hulu for the first time under a single corporate master. While nothing may change, I find this unlikely as I doubt Comcast (NBCUniversal) or Time Warner (Warner Bros) will enjoy being a minor partner to the largest entertainment company in the world.
As such there could be two outcomes from this consolidation in Hulu. The first is you take Disney at its word that Hulu will be distinct from their up coming streaming service. Or you don’t and all content will be housed under one roof. From Hannah Montana and Frozen all the way to Legion, Deadpool, and Alien. Myself I am betting on them taking the unification approach.
On the Coming Netflix Wars
This does however leave a lot of content up in the air. For example if Comcast and Time Warner feel like it they could abandon Hulu all together leaving Disney as the sole player. While Disney will almost certainly want to challenge Netflix and Amazon more directly these two players could prove decisive. If Comcast especially were to move content to Netflix a huge explosion of very lucrative content would become available replacing the already announced Disney properties that will be pulled once the current distribution deals ends.
As Disney targets Netflix directly aided by Fox’s IP Netflix will see a decrease in popular content. Notably Star Wars, X-Men, the Marvel Properties, and even classic television like The X-Files and 24 . For the Netflix MCU this means shows not currently in production will be shelved until Disney figures out its own streaming plans. In short, The Defenders and all their spin offs will in the future be living in the House of Mouse shortly and not Netflix save what is already produced.
With literally hundred of options on cable and the internet to get media content we oftentimes forget there was once upon a time only three channels where everything was watched. In the 1980's and 1990's a subversive fourth channel crashed the party that was Fox. With shows like Married with Children and latter the cultural phenomenon The Simpsons Fox established itself as a major player in the broadcast wars.
However due to a law prohibiting corporations from owning more then one “Major” Network Disney with ABC cannot legally own Fox. As such this leaves one of the few channels literally every American can receive in a strange place and by extension everyone who still consumes network television as Fox is now without a master.
Right now Network Television is kind of on life support being propped up by a few key shows and a whole lot of shlock that is easy to produce. However each of the major networks have a studio behind them that can still produce pretty good content if not at a premium cable quality. 20th Century Fox did that for Fox with shows like the previously mentioned X-Files popularizing science fiction on television and the currently running X-Men television show The Gifted.
Without 20th Century Fox now likely more aligned with ABC and FX which Disney will also own, there is an open question what is will Fox do. Luckily it does have the NFL so that despite its issues is a license to print money and I doubt Disney will touch something like The Simpsons. If only due to the fact The Simpsons is now two decades passed its prime nobody would really care. However an open question does exist, what does Fox do?
On Disney Streaming
Depending on what Disney does with its coming control over Hulu this could be a moot point. However if/when the Disney streaming site becomes a reality with the addition of Fox there is enough power here that nearly every family no matter when they grew up may find something they enjoy. There is also a distinct possibility much like HBO with HBO Go, they could have series people cannot live without.
If this comes to pass Disney’s Stream could easily become a required subscription for millions of households. Far quicker then was otherwise the case. Leveraging literally thousands of hours of content beloved by the entire family for generations from Bambi to Moana and everything in between Disney’s streaming app would have power.
Wait you say! What’s the problem with an awesome streaming app? Netflix is that too an its not evil. This is true, the issue though with a company that controls almost 40% of the entertainment industry it could throw its weight around and consumers (us) will be caught in the middle. Look at the Amazon v. Google tit for tat currently making dozens of Amazon and Google Devices slightly less useful because they can’t play nice.
What if Disney decides not to play nice with the company who makes you Set Top Box or console? I can assure you an exclusive Disney Streaming App for the Nintendo Switch would be a big selling point for families. As we have seen in consoles when companies do too well they get cocky and consumers suffer. A $17.99/month Disney App only playable on Nintendo or Disney approved products thats not a hard reality to see from my perspective.
On the Film Experience
In 2017 Disney and Fox combined did 40% of all ticket sales and that is without The Last Jedi. No studio has ever come close to dominating the box office that much and looking towards 2018 with at least five films almost guaranteed to break $800,000,000.00 2018 is poised to be another great year. Again you ask, what does this have to do with me?
Simple, price. Remember when Avatar (also now Disney’s) launched and due to 3D tickets jumped 50%. Well that was because the studio Fox used its muscle to force cinema’s into upgrading into the new format if it wanted to air the feature. The cost of upgrading was not cheap and the consumer bore the brunt of the cost. However even after the investment was paid off tickets stayed the new heightened price.
Why? Simple economics. Price is determined by what people are willing to spend on a product. Fox through Avatar proved people were willing to spend the new price and tickets have never decreased. Right now Disney is engaging in similar hard ball practices with The Last Jedi.
According to many outlets Disney is demanding a 65% cut in ticket prices leaving only 35% for the cinema and a four week commitment. This is a 10% to 15% increase in standard price splitting. Furthermore Disney is also encouraging new formats to be introduced to best view The Last Jedi, sound familiar? A business can eat this cost for a film like The Last Jedi which is guaranteed to sell millions in pop corn and cokes. However what happens if Disney demands something similar with everything?
Owning 40% of the yearly box office Disney could easily demand of chains things that could hurt their bottom line. These costs would invariably be borne by the consumer and if not the theater would die. Disney is slowly becoming too big to say no too. Just as a website must play nice by Google (ironically the only “Entertainment” corporation with a larger Market Cap then Disney) so too much theaters soon play nice with Disney.
On Disney being Nice
As Disney grows and its Market cap surpasses one quarter of a trillion dollars rivaling the projected GDP of Ireland in 2017, there is one thing holding it back. Itself. Much in the same way Google tells itself “don’t be evil” Disney may need to start making that its mantra itself. As corporations of that size are hard to reign in and oftentimes doing so produces worse results.
Everything I have written here is speculation a series of what ifs. I could be wrong, god I hope I am. However when Corporations get to certain sizes their orbits warp the markets around them and Disney could fundamentally change entertainment as we know it.
I say enjoy the realization we will likely finally be getting Doctor Doom in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A Disney supervised X-Men film is beyond any doubt exciting. However please do not forget there is more to that, nothing drops $52,000,000.00 without some big plans. Oh and one more thing rumors are Sony is looking to divest itself of its entertainment wing too and the most commonly mentioned buyer: Disney.