As Disney-Fox merger officially closes, both media giants move toward new futures
Disney's new extended "Aladdin" trailer is here for the live-action remake that hits theaters May 24. WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
Corrections and Clarifications: A graphic in this story previously included an asset acquired by another company. It has been removed.
A whole new world officially begins Wednesday for Disney and Fox.
The Walt Disney Company's $71.3-billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox's movie and TV studios and other assets including Fox's 30 percent stake in Hulu officially closed after the clock struck midnight.
Fox emerges from the deal, which Disney won in a heated bidding war with Comcast, as a streamlined company focusing on live news and sports – it maintains the Fox network, Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, as well as sports networks FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network, and its 28 local TV stations.
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Fox Sports' 22 regional networks are in the process of being sold-off by Disney as part of the company's deal with regulators to gain approval for the merger. One network, the Yankees' YES Network, was already sold for roughly $3.5 billion to a group led by the baseball team and included Amazon and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group.
The new Disney comes out of the transaction as a box office and entertainment behemoth, with a kingdom that includes its owns studios – its live-action arm has Dumbo (March 29) and Aladdin (May 24) on the way – along with the Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel brands and now Fox's movie studio, which includes the Avatar, X-Men and Deadpool franchises, and FX cable network.
Actor Ryan Reynolds celebrated the deal's consummation Tuesday, tweeting a picture of the title character he portrays in the Deadpool films wearing a pair of Mickey Mouse ears on a bus headed to Disney. "Feels like the first day of 'Pool," he tweeted.
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Disney dominance to hit new heights
Already commanding a lion's share of the box office, Disney will be even more dominant with Fox's studios on board. Disney owns about 30 percent of the U.S. box office and will hold about 40 percent when Fox is folded in, The Hollywood Reporter estimates.
Powered by hits such as Black Panther, The Incredibles 2, and Avengers: Infinity War, Disney set a domestic box office record of $3 billion in 2018, according to Deadline. Add in Fox, which earned $1.227 billion, and the combined studio would have raked in $4.25 billion in the U.S. and "a massive" $10.2 billion globally, the site said.
Disney's goal is to be a dominant player not only at the box office but also on broadband. It has a Disney+ subscription streaming service scheduled to launch later this year that will be anchored by its own Disney brand, along with Pixar, Marvel, the Star Wars franchises as well as National Geographic, which it acquired in the Fox deal.
The service will be a hit, with about 43 percent of adult broadband users saying they will likely consider subscribing (ranging from slightly to definitely likely), according to a survey of 1,949 people done in December by research firm The Diffusion Group
"This is a major studio pooling what is arguably the largest library of high-value content on the planet to populate a single branded subscription service," said The Diffusion Group president Michael Greeson in a statement accompanying the survey.
Could merger result in re-envisioned Marvel Universe?
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are expectantly hopeful for full-on mashups involving the comic brand's hero roster, perhaps with a battle royale of the X-Men facing off against the Avengers.
Some movies will continue to be made under the Fox brand, Disney CEO Bob Iger said earlier this month, but whether that includes the X-Men and Deadpool films remains to be seen.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige told Variety late last year that he soon expected to get free rein to begin developing films in which Fox's Marvel characters would interact with those in Disney's Marvel films.
“We’ve been told it’s looking very, very good and could happen in the first six months of next year,” Feige told Variety in December. “It’s nice when a company that created all these characters can have access to all those characters. It’s unusual not to. But in terms of actually thinking about it and actually planning things, we haven’t started that yet.”
The current Avengers storyline is set to culminate in next month's Avengers: Endgame (out April 26). Meanwhile, X-Men: Dark Phoenix (June 7, 2019) will flesh out the storyline of Jean Grey who develops a powerful alter ego Dark Phoenix, possibly becoming the last X-Men film released by Fox.
Fox has another X-Men film, New Mutants, scheduled for release on Aug. 2, 2019, but it remains to be seen if it sticks to that date now that the merger is complete. Originally scheduled to be released last April, the film is now rumored to head directly to Disney+.
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