A business saga almost worthy of its own comic book event might be getting close to its big finale. After a disruption in the form of a rival deal from Comcast, Disney and Fox have announced a renewed deal for the House of Mouse to merge most of Fox's entertainment subsidiaries into its operations.
My thanks to the Marvel of the past for Avengers vs X-Men, a series perfect for providing art for these Disney/Fox stories. Image: Jim Cheung (Marvel Comics)
As reported by The Wall Street Journal last night, the two corporate giants announced an updated merger deal to cut off a last-minute $US65 billion ($88 billion) plan from Comcast announced last month. The new $US70 billion ($95 billion) deal is a significant increase on Disney's original $US52.4 billion ($71 billion) offer, although nothing else about the nature of the merger has really changed. It is a testament, however, to just how seriously Disney is taking Comcast's renewed interest in acquiring Fox.
Disney would acquire 20th Century Fox's film and TV studios, Fox's FX cable channels and regional news stations, Fox's stakes in international networks such as the UK's Sky broadcaster, and Fox's one-third stake in Hulu (meaning Disney would become the majority owner the streaming service). The remainder of Fox's assets, such as its sports channels or the toxic Fox News, are not part of the deal, and will be spun off into a separate organisation helpfully named New Fox.
And yes, for comic book fans, this also means that the movie rights to Marvel characters such as the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, long separated from Marvel Studios' own movie universe, would revert back. We don't know how many of the currently in-development Fox/Marvel movies, such as the rumoured Silver Surfer film, Noah Hawley's Doctor Doom movie, or future Deadpool-adjacent titles such as X-Force will be affected by the new deal, but Marvel and Disney executives have been openly discussing their desires to be able to integrate these films and characters into Marvel's teeming pile of movie plans.
But while Marvel fans might want to start thinking about movies with Wolverine punching Captain America, the deal between Disney and Fox still has a long way to go. After all, despite the significant boost in monetary value of Disney's deal bringing it over Comcast's offering, Fox shareholders still have to meet later today to agree on whether there are more financial benefits from Comcast's smaller, all-cash deal, or Disney's larger deal that is wrapped up in both cash and stock.
Though the WSJ report notes, "If Fox leans toward a cash-heavy deal, Disney is in position to inject cash into its offer, people familiar with the matter say."
Beyond that, there's also the distinct possibility of such a vast corporate merger coming under government scrutiny. Democrat members of both the US House and Senate's anti-trust committees already expressed concern that the initial Disney/Fox deal announced late last year could violate anti-trust laws, and a larger deal only heightens those issues.
But given that the US Justice Department recently gave the go-ahead to the similarly massive vertical merger between Time Warner and AT&T, it seems as though there may be less inclination for the current administration to enact restrictions on a deal that could create vast-reaching ramifications for competition in the media landscape.
For now though, if you've been waiting to get pretty much all of Marvel's superheroes back under one moviemaking roof, that seems like it could finally be happening again.