A new report out of CNBC hints at some major changes in the world of blockbuster cinema and the remaining big gun studios, as the outlet reports that 21st Century Fox “has been holding talks to sell most of the company” to the Walt Disney Company, “leaving behind a media company tightly focused on news and sports, according to people familiar with the situation.” CNBC notes that “the talks have taken place over the last few weeks and there is no certainty they will lead to a deal.”
Interestingly enough, CNBC also reports that “the two sides are not currently talking at this very moment, but given the on again, off again nature of the talks, they could be revisited.”
According to CNBC’s sources, should a deal be made, Disney would not purchase all of 21st Century Fox, which currently includes the Fox Entertainment Group (which owns both the Fox film studio and Fox television network), plus the pan-Asian pay channel operator Star TV. Per sources, Disney would not buy the television network, any sports programming assets, or the Fox News and Business channels. CNBC also notes that Disney would also not purchase Fox’s local broadcasting affiliates.
Instead, the interest seems to be most focused on Fox’s original production assets: movie studio, TV production, and various international assets (CNBC adds that they would buy some of the channels, including FX and National Geographic).
CNBC reports that Fox’s “willingness to engage in sale talks with Disney stems from a growing belief among its senior management that scale in media is of immediate importance…The company is said to believe that a more tightly group of properties around news and sports could compete more effectively in the current marketplace.” With the studios sold off, they might be more able to do just that, assembling more assets around the TV channels that Disney isn’t interested — or, given antirust laws, able — to purchase.
Disney’s attraction to the deal reportedly lies in the “opportunity to take control of another movie studio and significant TV production assets” as they prepare to roll out their own streaming platform, one that will serve as the exclusive online home of all Disney movies (including the “Star Wars” and Marvel franchises) and also a sports-centric arm. The deal would also bring various Marvel properties under the same banner — Fox still owns X-Men — and would likely allow various Disney theme parks to include attractions related to some of Fox’s splashiest properties, like “Alien” and, yup, even “Avatar.”
Fox hasn’t topped the highest studio earnings since 2014, consistently ranking third or fourth over the last three years. This year, the studio currently ranks fourth — following Warner Bros., Universal, and Disney’s own Buena Vista — and their current domestic box office take only accounts for less than 13% of 2017’s market share. The studio does still have four more movies to release this year, including this week’s “Murder on the Orient Express” and the awards-leaning “The Post.”
Per CNBC, “The contemplated structure of the deal or the price that has been discussed could not be learned.”
CNBC reports that they reached out to officials at Disney and Fox and both entities declined to comment.