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It’s been rumored for a couple of weeks now but it became official on Thursday morning. The Walt Disney Company is acquiring the majority of assets from 21st Century Fox, thereby creating the world’s largest media company by far. This deal will have regulatory hoops to jump through all over the world and will probably take 18 to 24 months to close.
It’s much easier to list the assets that Disney will not get as opposed to what they do get. Not included in the deal:
- Fox Broadcast Network
- Fox News and Fox Business Channels
- FS1 and FS2
- The Big Ten Network
- The Fox Lot in Century City
What is included in the deal are the Fox Sports Regional Sports Networks. This will gut the available streaming content on FoxSportsGo. It will also be interesting to see if Disney chooses to hold on to them or spin them off to someone like AT&T who has jumped into the RSN business with their purchase of Root Sports last year. It could provide product for the new ESPN Plus streaming service and see all of the regionals rebranded under the ESPN name. Or taking on all of the additional rights fees for a contracting cable universe could be a killer. Disney could save tons of money by nationalizing the content of the regionals but maintaining the distribution model. In other words, why have two separate feeds for the home team and the away team when you could have just one under the ESPN banner? What the teams lose in in-game promotion mentions could be compensated for in free commercial spots.
This deal also marks the end of the Hollywood Big Six. All of the movie studios have been bought and sold many times over but this is the first deal that sees one studio purchase another. And by buying Fox’s stake in Hulu, ComcastNBCU will be left distributing its product over a service that they no longer have an equal say in. Could NBC then join CBS in offering its own over-the-top service? And if Hulu loses all of those programs why would it need to exist at all? The network content currently streamed could easily be folded over into the new Disney streaming service set to launch in 2019.
It also slightly changes the political world. Disney Chairman Robert Iger was said to be eying a run for the Democratic nomination in 2020. That ends because part of the deal is that Iger stays put at Disney until at least 2021.
The buzzword you’ll be hearing a lot of is “efficiencies.” For 21st Century Fox employees that’s going to mean job losses. Disney has gotten really good at that.