Everything Disney Would Own if it Really Did Buy 21st Century Fox

By Tom Pritchard on at

Yesterday word came out that Disney had been in talks with 21st Century Fox, with the topic of discussion being Disney buying nearly all of Fox's assets. Pretty much everything the company owns except Fox News and Sport, because anti-competition laws prevent one company from owning multiple news and sports outlets (Disney owns ABC News and has a stake in ESPN).

While further reports claim that the talks happened, but a sale was off the table, it got us thinking. Disney buying Fox, and its related film and TV production divisions, is a big deal. But how big? So here are all the big things Disney would presumably get its hands on if that sale ever happened.

A Majority Stake in an Established Streaming Service

Disney has been making big statements about how it wants its own streaming service. A service for Disney content, so it didn't have to be spread over a million different other platforms. Well, Disney already has a stake in streaming, and I don't mean Disney Life. Hulu, the US-only streaming network that has yet to spread internationally, is part of Disney's portfolio. Specifically, Disney owns 30 per cent of the platform and shares it with Comcast/NBC Universal (30 per cent), Time Warner (10 per cent), and *shock* 21st Century Fox (30 per cent).

Assuming Hulu would be fully included alongside TV and movie wings of Fox, and not thrown in the same classification boat as news and sports (because why would it), that would mean Disney comes out with 60 per cent of the shares. I don't have a major understanding of business, but I know that if you own more than 51 per cent of a company you're effectively in control.

Well done, Disney. You (hypothetically) just realised your dream of controlling your own streaming platform - and you did it in the most sensible way possible: by buying one people already subscribe to and not having to start from scratch.

Hulu might not have the same international reach as Netflix and Amazon Prime, but launching it internationally would be an obvious move. It's the go-to place for everything Disney, Fox, and even (presuming they're still on board) NBC and Time Warner.

That's three of Hollywood's biggest film and TV studios in one place. Plus the company that owns HBO, which makes Game of Thrones. Your move, Netflix!

Seth MacFarlane

Think about what Seth MacFarlane has been in charge of on TV, and then take a look at the company responsible for putting them on the air. Oh look! That was Fox. While American Dad has moved onto TBS (owned by Time Warner), Fox is still home to his other TV projects - including Family Guy and less serious Star Trek rip-off The Orville. Most of those are dead, or in limbo (Cosmos, Bordertown, The Cleveland Show, The Winner, and the not-greenlit Flintstones reboot), but the fact is that Fox basically owns MacFarlane's TV career.

Not his films, though, which is probably a good thing because they're not that great.

The Simpsons and Futurama

Speaking of which, Fox is also home to the world's longest-running sitcom (and America's longest-running animated series), The Simpsons. Fox reportedly has the rights to the show until 2082, and it's clearly popular enough to continually churn out episodes and presumably continue pay its voice cast with very large bags of money.

Disney would love that moneymaker, and you can be damned sure it would greenlight a film sequel.

Oh and there's also Futurama which was always better than The Simpsons, and yet kept getting cancelled. If Disney could bring back Futurama I would be so happy.

Firefly

Would we ever see Firefly return to our TV screens? Probably not, but it would be nice to hope that maybe, just maybe, Disney would renew the much-loved and tragically short lived TV series. Films would probably be out of the question, since Serenity was distributed by Universal, but it's been made clear in the past that Fox seems to own the rights to Firefly.

Some might say Disney would just ruin it, but I swear on my pretty floral bonnet that I would end them if they did.

Avatar

This is a surprise. Did you know Fox owns Avatar? James Cameron's grossly overrated film that's getting a bunch of sequels very few people want made a lot of money, and is even getting its own themed 'land' at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida.

While the status of the four sequels (and the combined billion dollar budget they reportedly have) might become a little uncertain, Disney has everything to gain from them doing well. People don't flock to theme parks to enjoy rides for films that flop, after all, and both the films and the rides are basically just big adverts for each other.

The Rights to the First Star Wars Film

This is a topic I've written about before. The reason Disney can't release the original Star Wars film on Blu-ray, in its original form, is because Disney doesn't own it. Everything related to Episode IV actually belongs to Fox, and wasn't George Lucas's to sell when Disney threw $4 billion his way.

While the rights to Episodes I, II, III, V, and VI revert to Lucasfilm (and parent company Disney) in 2020, A New Hope belongs to Fox until the end of time. Disney might try to purchase those rights in the near future, but if it were to buy Fox outright then that wouldn't be an issue.

X-Men Film Rights

You know how Marvel sold off a bunch of film rights back in the '90s, and used that money to save itself from bankruptcy? A lot of those rights have returned, but a decent number of them have not. Like X-Men which belongs to Fox, the studio that keeps pumping out films that continually disappoint - plus Deadpool which did the opposite.

Barring some sort of miraculous deal, or Fox suddenly deciding that the X-Men films just aren't profitable, Marvel and Disney won't get those rights back. Unless Disney were to, I don't know, buy Fox. Then suddenly, the company has all the X-Men characters back, and we can finally see that Hulk vs Wolverine film we desperately need.

Fox also has some sort of deal with Fantastic Four, though it doesn't actually own the rights. The rights belong to German film company Constantin Film, who have owned those rights since the very first deliberately-unreleased Fantastic Four film from 1994. Fox has co-produced the past three FF films as part of an agreement with Constantin, but since it doesn't actually own the rights itself then a Disney purchase would leave the fate of those characters in limbo.

The issue of X-Men on TV is also a bit tricky. Fox doesn't have the TV rights and therefore can't make anything without Marvel's go-ahead. Similarly the fiasco surrounding Mutant X also showed that Marvel can't make a live-action X-Men TV show by itself. So with Fox under its wing, Disney is free to make as many X-Men TV shows as it likes

But basically, barring an issue with the Fantastic Four, all it would need to complete the character rights set are the Spider-Man characters (which are now shared anyway), the distribution rights to Hulk solo movies, and whatever the hell is going on with Namor these days.

Some DC TV Rights

Fox has a lot of stuff on TV, including DC properties Gotham and Lucifer. Whether Fox has totally exclusive rights to the characters isn't exactly clear, but it would feel a bit odd to have a Disney-owned company producing work based on Disney-owned Marvel's biggest competitor.

Sky TV

It seems weird that Fox would willingly handover Sky TV (the one in this country) after all the trouble Rupert Murdoch has gone to in his everlasting attempt to acquire it in its entirety. It seems less likely that it would be included, but there are no rules about Disney owning news companies in this country, in the same way that it couldn't acquire Fox News (as much as Fox News needs some Disneyfication).

I'd say this is a maybe, but you never know. I personally would much rather Bob Iger be in charge of Sky than Rupert Murdoch.

Other Films and TV Shows

Among the things Fox has rights to at the moment include the Planet of the Apes films, Kingsman, Alien, Predator, Die Hard, Ice Age, The Maze Runner film series, and international distribution rights to The Terminator films (the film rights themselves belong to James Cameron).

On TV you have the likes of Brooklyn Nine Nine, The X-Files, 24, Prison Break, Empire, Archer, and the The Exorcist.


So that is a lot of stuff. For now the potential deal seems to be cancelled, though that could change. Disney has a lot to gain if it bought Fox, provided anything and everything was included in the deal. A lot of what Disney has set out to do could be achieved this way, so I doubt that the company will give up quite so easily.