The tension was thick at the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan today as relevant shareholders, seated in separate ballrooms, each voted in favor of a new deal that would see Disney purchase the lion’s share of Fox media properties, according to the New York Times. The tentative purchase plan, weighing in at a whopping $71.3 billion in value, would give Disney rights to the bulk of the media empire built by business magnate Rupert Murdoch, and would forever alter the media paradigm and the film, video, video game, and animation industries.
3D blockbuster and progenitor Avatar, milestone animated comedy classic The Simpsons, romantic film icon Titanic, and the entirety of the X-Men comic book movies would presumably then be owned by the “house of mouse,” adding to an enormous dragon’s hoard of intellectual property already in Disney’s possession including the Star Wars franchise, the output of Pixar Animation Studios, and the wildly financially successful and audience acclaimed Marvel Studios productions.
Not everyone is happy in Hollywood however, with some critics of the acquisition, including some writers at Vox. Gesturing towards the — at this point — near certainty of a future filled with media mergers and thus consolidation of content and creativity, the progressive media outlet points out a few flaws that will result from the deal.
Topping the list is the notion that Fox, as a time-honored entity of quality programming, would end up as a bargain bin receptacle for cheap Disney content that would otherwise violate FTC statutes in place to prevent precisely the same sort of media monopoly that Vox argues we are already witnessing. The likely death of indie media studio Fox Searchlight also plays into their critique of the move, as does the fact that, as Vox alleges, Rupert Murdoch will walk away with a cool $52 billion to do with as he pleases, and as a frequent bogeyman to left-leaning politicos, this is dread news indeed.
For their part, Disney — represented by chief executive Robert Iger — staked a great deal of their social and fiscal capital on the merger, engaged in a heated bidding war for Fox against tech titan Comcast. Comcast briefly outmaneuvered Disney for a period of time last month, topping Iger’s offer, before Disney struck back with an even larger counteroffer containing a deal flush with both cash in addition to stock holdings. Fox immediately accepted the offer in principle, leading to today’s vote being brought to shareholders, which both parties resoundingly accepted at the Hilton Hotel.
Regulators in over a dozen nations must still approve the deal in their localities, but this is seen more as a procedural hurdle rather than any real threat to the potential merger taking place. With the deal being essentially struck, Disney grows to titanic size in the media and entertainment sphere, dwarfing most other challengers to the throne.
Whether or not they will successfully leverage their dominant position remains to be seen, but given their historical performance, it would likely be unwise to bet against a positive fiscal outcome.