The Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox stockholders voted at the end of July to approve Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox. For Disney’s movies, this means they now have access to Fox’s Marvel properties like X-Men and Fantastic Four. Disney will now be the home to the Avatar franchise and classic Fox titles.
For television, Disney gets 20th Century Fox studio, FX Networks, National Geographic, and more. The actual Fox network is not part of the deal. Fox splits off and becomes “New Fox,” which includes Fox Broadcasting Co. and the Fox TV station group, Fox Sports and Fox News.
What this means for movie fans is more clear: for one, Marvel fans hope Wolverine can finally join The Avengers, and now that Disney owns the studio that released Star Wars: A New Hope and its 1997 special edition, maybe they can restore the unaltered theatrical edition.
To find out what this means for TV fans, Rotten Tomatoes interviewed current Fox Television CEO Dana Walden, FX CEO John Landgraf, and prolific creator on both networks Ryan Murphy, and found 7 big ways TV fans win in this Disney–Fox deal.
Television production arm 20th Century Fox Television produces shows on all networks, like This Is Us on NBC, so they’re not going to pull Fox Television shows off of New Fox just because they’re splitting from the network.
Fox Television currently produces Fox’s The Simpsons, 9-1-1, The Resident, The Gifted, The Orville, and this season’s The Cool Kids, Rel, The Passage, and Proven Innocent. And New Fox will fight to keep the shows that define the Fox network.
“The Simpsons is so much a part of the brand,” Walden said. “There are no plans for them to go anywhere other than Fox. We have a couple years of episodes already in progress on The Simpsons.”
That’s also good news for anyone pitching animated shows to Fox. Look how The Simpsons has anchored Sunday night animation on Fox.
“There’s been such an incredible halo effect of that show and the other animated series that are on our Sunday night,” Walden acknowledged. “Keeping quality shows that help define a network’s brand — there are reasons aside from financial you keep producing shows.”
New Fox may be losing 20th Century Fox Television as an in-house creator of shows, but the split frees them to select from the best new shows all the TV production studios offer. That can still include Fox Television, but also the television arms of Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., MGM, Lionsgate, and more.
“What makes New Fox new: It will be the only network to operate with complete independence,” Walden said. “It will have the ability to pick up the best shows from any production company with no studio agenda. We see this as an opportunity to get vibrant, independent studios back on broadcast.”
Sony and Warner Brothers aren’t hurting — Sony produces NBC’s The Blacklist, ABC’s The Good Doctor, Netflix’s The Crown, and YouTube Premium’s Karate Kid sequel Cobra Kai, while WB produces CBS’s The Big Bang Theory and all The CW’s Arrowverse shows. Walden just wants first dibs.
“We want to be their first choice among the big four networks,” Walden said. “Last season 90 percent of our development came from our own studio. This year we’ll reduce it to 50 percent, with the other half coming from outside.”
Disney is planning to launch its own streaming service next year, which will include a new live-action Star Wars series as well as catalogs of Disney-owned series and movies. The New York Times reports that National Geographic programming is likely to be added to Disney streaming, though it is still unknown whether Fox’s catalog will be combined. If it were, that would include movies like Avatar, Die Hard, Planet of the Apes, and other major franchises and TV classics (M*A*S*H, L.A. Law, and The X-Files, to name a few), and you get a robust streaming environment with familiar titles that appeals to a broad base.
And if Fox content doesn’t appear on Disney streaming, Hulu is still available. When Fox’s share of Hulu is added to Disney, Disney will own two-thirds of Hulu. Analysts predict Disney can beef up Hulu with Fox shows that are maybe too edgy and adult for its family friendly Disney service. Empire, 24, The Orville, and others may go better with The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock than animated movies.
Disney also owns ESPN and their ESPN+ app, and FX+ is available for $5.99 a month for more options.
Even before the Disney–Fox merger was appoved, Ryan Murphy signed a new deal to develop shows for Netflix, where he’s doing Ratched, a show based on the Nurse Ratched character from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
“Every show that I have established that is running that’s on FOX or FX, my intent is to move forward with them and to keep going with them and to be actively involved with them,” Murphy said while on a panel for Pose.
There won’t be any new Ryan Murphy shows on Fox or FX. Netflix snagged the future of Ryan Murphy, but as long as New Fox and Disney play ball, he’ll keep giving them the good stuff they inherited with the purchase.
“It’s been an interesting transition for me, because in many ways it feels the same,” Murphy said. “I’m still close to everybody at FX and FOX and speak to them almost every day while I’m pursuing my new development. So I’m really excited about the things that I’m developing for Netflix, and I’m also very excited about continuing the properties I have for FOX.”
Disney is already developing a live-action Star Wars series, thus making its streaming service a must have for Star Wars fans. Via ABC, they’ve also done Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter based on characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Observer suggests that Disney could turn the Alien franchise into a streaming series too. Think of all the Fox franchises that could open up as series: Planet of the Apes was already a short-lived series, but with today’s technology they can do it right. Or how about the weekly adventures of John McClane? (Our own Comics on TV columnist has been rooting for a Fantastic Four or Silver Surfer series.)
FX CEO John Landgraf hopes his network can contribute to the synergy of the Disney-Fox deal. FX is home to edgy adult shows like The Americans, Atlanta, American Horror Story, American Crime Story, The Shield, and so on.
“I think you could make a case Disney does G and PG and PG-13 better than any other company in the history of the world, but they don’t do much R,” Landgraf said. “We do that pretty well. So I think there’s a lot of the properties that don’t readily translate themselves into truly adult stuff, but if you’re asking me if there’s IP locked in there that I’d love to get my hands on, yeah.”
Star Wars has never had a problem entertaining fans of all ages, but surely there are some grown-up fans who would appreciate a more adult and mature take on the galaxy far, far away. If Disney would ever allow such an approach, Landgraf is ready.
“I won’t be the keeper of that flame,” Landgraf said. “If somebody gives us an opportunity to do something with it, I’ll be thrilled, but we’ll see.”
Competition is good and a major concern about Disney acquiring Fox is the idea that it’s inching ever closer to an entertainment monopoly. The competitive landscape remains intact even with this merger — it just looks different.
Disney gets more shows for their streaming services, and Netflix will lose all its Disney content by the end of 2019 and will have to come up with even more originals to keep subscribers interested.
Netflix has shown how good they are at creating compelling water-cooler television: Stranger Things, Mindhunter, and GLOW are three examples. The remaining question is: Can they create the next Bambi or Little Mermaid?