This is no Mickey Mouse deal: Disney is buying Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion, including its Hollywood film studio and properties such as The Simpsons, The X-Men, and Avatar. Not included: Fox News.
The deal marks a major retreat for Murdoch, whose sprawling media empire was forced to split into two pieces after a British hacking scandal a few years back. NPR notes that he “reached the remarkable conclusion” that his $60 billion company “just wasn’t big enough.”
For Disney, the deal is a strike against the growing dominance of Netflix and the other upstarts of streaming, and set itself up to populate its own streaming channel with high-quality content to compete in that landscape. The deal gives Disney control of some of few remaining pop-culture jewels that it doesn’t already own— the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, for example, and the rights to original Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Disney will also acquire a controlling stake in the streaming service Hulu, the cable network FX, and a soon-to-be controlling stake in satellite broadcaster Sky—assuming the deal receives approval from antitrust regulators in the US and elsewhere.
That could take a while: The deal would reshape Hollywood by removing one of its major studios, reducing television and movie production capacity. It doesn’t bode well that the Justice Department’s antitrust division is suing to block AT&T’s proposed $85-billion takeover of Time Warner. But Murdoch might have some reason for optimism: His ties to and friendship with US president Donald Trump go back decades, in what the Guardian recently called a “billionaire bromance.”
The remnants of 21st Century Fox not bought by Disney will consist of Fox News—the conservative news network hobbled by sexual harassment scandals but still a massive money-making machine—along with the Fox broadcast channel and a few other, smaller properties.