Earlier this week, Comcast made a $65 million offer to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, attempting to derail a Disney-Fox acquisition that was announced last year. Comcast and Disney have both been chasing this deal for months. And although the financial terms for each company are different, they’re looking for the same assets from Fox — which, in turn, is looking to refocus on its core network TV business.
But which parts of Fox are staying independent, and which ones will Comcast or Disney own? And how will the new parts fit into these massive conglomerates’ existing businesses? Here’s what you can look forward to if one of the deals goes through.
INDEPENDENT “NEW FOX” KEEPS SPORTS AND NEWS
Comcast and Disney both want 21st Century Fox to spin off a separate company called New Fox, which would remain independent after 21st Century Fox’s acquisition. New Fox would keep ownership of the Fox Television Stations Group, which includes 28 TV stations nationwide. It would keep the Fox Broadcasting Company television network, and it would retain some core Fox television properties, including:
- Fox News Channel
- Fox Sports
- Big Ten Network
- Fox Deportes
Disney bought ABC in the 1990s, and Comcast acquired NBC in its 2009 NBCUniversal merger. So the existence of “New Fox” means there will still be four major US television networks (alongside CBS). It also means we won’t witness the spectacle of bitter political rivals like Fox News and MSNBC operating from within the same company.
DISNEY OR COMCAST WILL GET TV SHOWS AND INTERNATIONAL CHANNELS
Whatever company buys Fox will get Twentieth Century Fox Television, which produces shows like The Simpsons and Empire. That company will get FX Productions and FX Networks, home of Atlanta, American Crime Story, and American Horror Story. And 21st Century Fox handles commercial media for the nonprofit National Geographic Society, so the company that buys it will take over National Geographic’s magazine and TV network.
Fox’s international TV networks are also up for grabs. Disney and Comcast both have a substantial presence outside the US, but this would give one of these companies a veritable empire, with properties including:
- Fox Networks Group International, which operates across Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa
- Indian media company Star India
- European network Sky (Fox has a minority stake now, but it hopes to buy the whole company before any acquisition)
On paper, either Disney or Comcast will also get 21st Century Fox’s 22 regional sports networks. That might not happen, though. Recode reported yesterday that Disney is willing to spin off the networks if regulators require it. And given the high cost of sports team deals, a buyer might decide they’re not worth the trouble of acquiring.
HULU’S FUTURE IS AT STAKE
Four companies share control of Hulu, and three of them are involved in this bidding war: Comcast, Disney, and 21st Century Fox each control 30 percent of the streaming video service. (Time Warner has the last 10 percent.) So the buyer of Fox will end up with a controlling share and can shape the future of the platform.
Disney could fold Hulu into a small stable of streaming services, alongside ESPN+ and an upcoming family-friendly platform. Comcast, meanwhile, dominates America’s wired broadband market. And after an agreement with regulators expires later this year, it will be free to give the service special treatment.
SOMEBODY GETS FRESH THEME PARK FODDER
This is pretty simple. Comcast owns Universal Parks and Resorts, which runs the Universal Studios theme parks. Disney, obviously, owns Disneyland and Disney World. There’s already some crossover with 21st Century Fox properties — Disney recently based an attraction on Fox’s film Avatar — but the company that buys Fox can draw from a newly widened range of popular films and TV shows. And speaking of that…
THE GREAT FRANCHISE CONSOLIDATION CONTINUES
Sure, all these acquisitions will help shape the future of film and television, but which deal will give us the best media franchise crossovers?
In addition to the TV studios mentioned above, the company that buys 21st Century Fox will acquire the Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, and Fox 2000 film production studios. That means either Disney or Comcast could own the rights to franchises like:
- Fantastic Four
- Planet of the Apes
- The X-Files
- Die Hard
- Home Alone
- Independence Day
- The Martian
- … and many, many more.
Disney owns Marvel (in addition to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and endless other properties), so a Fox acquisition would resolve the weird, decades-long split between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the X-Men series. This has a certain “getting the whole gang back together” appeal, which has won over some Marvel fans to Disney’s side. On the other hand, popular R-rated films like Logan and Deadpool could be an awkward fit with Disney’s family-friendly superhero universe.
Meanwhile, Comcast has the entire stable of Universal Pictures movies, thanks to the aforementioned NBCUniversal merger. An acquisition would put Fox’s films in the company of Jurassic Park, Fast and Furious, and the Jason Bourne series. Incidentally, Universal also owns Despicable Me and its spinoffs. So if you have a burning desire to watch Alien vs. Predator vs. Minions, this new Comcast deal is your best shot.