The Walt Disney Company is set to become the proud owner of a vast swath of Rupert Murdoch’s movie and television empire, having agreed to pay $52.4 billion to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, the companies said on Thursday.
The enormous deal is the latest move toward consolidation in Hollywood.
What’s in it for Disney?
More television production
Fox’s television division is one of the most prolific content producers in the business. Shows include “The Simpsons,” “This Is Us,” “Modern Family,” “American Horror Story” and “Homeland.”
The (comparatively small) equivalent at Disney is ABC Studios, which has recently struggled to produce hits. In August, it lost its biggest hitmaker, Shonda Rhimes, who created “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” to Netflix.
Streaming is a market that Disney plans to break into in a big way. This year, the company announced two coming services: one, powered by sports programming from ESPN, set to begin next year and another, scheduled for 2019, to be built around movies and TV shows.
Disney hopes that the Fox television juggernaut can supercharge its ambitions by producing original series for the services and providing access to a catalog of older offerings. Fox would also contribute its stake in Hulu, the streaming service that shows ABC content and original programming like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” giving Disney a majority share.
X-Men, the original ‘Star Wars’ and more
In the 1990s, when Marvel was just starting out as a movie company, a licensing agreement gave control of the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises to Fox. Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion in 2009; the deal with Fox brings optioned characters, including the edgy Deadpool, back into the Marvel fold.
Disney, home to “Frozen,” “Toy Story” and “The Avengers,” will pick up other film franchises — namely “Avatar,” for which there were four sequels in production as of April. Fox also owns the “Ice Age” animated series and the rebooted “Planet of the Apes” franchise.
Disney could also decide to take Fox’s older properties out of retirement, including “Night at the Museum,” “Home Alone,” “Doctor Dolittle” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”
Lucasfilm, which spawned the popular “Star Wars” films, has belonged to Disney since 2012. But Fox has retained the distribution rights to the first film, “Episode IV — A New Hope,” in perpetuity.
Regional sports networks to bolster ESPN
Fox will bring its collection of regional sports networks to the table, including the YES Network that carries New York Yankees games, helping to fortify ESPN and its streaming service.
Fox’s sports channels often hold exclusive rights to broadcast local professional and college games in the United States. The channels also have deals with teams from Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League.
That has proved lucrative for the company, drawing advertising revenue.
ESPN has struggled this year, with 1.4 million cable subscribers abandoning its flagship channel, taking away tens of millions of dollars in revenue. The network has tried to attract more local viewership and to re-engage fans lost to video clips on their mobile devices.
A bigger international presence
Disney is already a global behemoth, with major operations in Europe, Japan and China, where it opened its Shanghai Disney Resort last year.
But the company gets a lopsided amount of its profit from North America.
Mr. Murdoch got his start in Australia, New Zealand and Britain and has developed a stable of international businesses, some of which will now be Disney’s.
That includes Sky, the largest media company in Europe, in which Fox holds a nearly 40 percent stake; the National Geographic cable channel, which reaches hundreds of millions of homes overseas and has Fox as a majority owner; and Star India, a sizable Indian media company that is a subsidiary of Fox.
An infusion of female executives
The deal could also bring diversity to Disney, where every business division is run by a man. Fox has a sizable roster of female executives.
The list includes Stacey Snider, the head of 20th Century Fox; Emma Watts, the vice chair; Dana Walden, who leads Fox Television Group; Nancy Utley, the president of Fox Searchlight Pictures; and Courteney Monroe, the chief executive of National Geographic Channel.