Late Monday night, Disney announced its acquisition of 21st Century Fox had been finalized. Disney CEO Bob Iger has called it a “historic” day. Expensive too. The acquisition cost the House of Mouse $71.3 billion dollars. And, down the line a little ways, it will likely cost parents a little bit of money as well. But that may not turn out to be a bad things. As the streaming wars get hot, parents may finally be able to sit their kids in front of genuinely high-quality content.
One thing to keep in mind about the merger is that it does not represent an example of the entertainment industry expansion. It represents consolidation, the larger media trend. As was reported last month, the acquisition will cost at least 4,000 employees their jobs — with some analysts are projecting as much as 10,000 layoffs. Disney is investing in the short run to save money in the long. In fact, part of the reason why Fox sold themselves to Disney is that Disney promised $2 billion dollars in annual cost savings. What does that have to do with Saturday morning cartoons?
It all comes down to which movies and TV shows are available where. Right now, you can watch a lot of Disney and Fox movies on Netflix. This includes everything from the Marvel movies to the Star Wars movies to Pixar and animated fare like The Incredibles 2 and Moana. On the Fox side, we’re talking Boss Baby and How to Train Your Dragon.
Now, imagine none of these movies are on Netflix or Amazon Prime. They won’t be. In his memo about the merger CEO Bob Iger said: “We are rapidly transforming our company to take full advantage of evolving consumer trends and emerging technology in order to thrive in this new and exciting time.” The easy translation of “evolving consumer trends” is streaming. With the launch of the streaming Disney+ platform this year, Mickey is going toe-to-toe with Netflix, which is no small thing considering how the streaming giant has expanded into a massive studio. So, while a lot of Disney and Fox titles will stay on Netflix and Amazon Prime for a while, it stands to reason that the long game here is to get all of those properties over to Disney+. And they’re going to lure parents into a new subscription for Disney+ with the promise of every single classic Disney movie. Also, the Fox stuff and, you know, Deadpool.
In a year or two, after all the Disney and Fox stuff gets mitigated off-of Netflix or Amazon Prime, the chances that parents will cancel one of their other subscriptions seem high.
There will also be some changes more visible at the intellectual property level. Notably, it’s likely that adult franchises will become young adult franchise — if not children’s franchises.
Ryan Reynolds (star of Deadpool) is already joking around about the merger. Yesterday, he posted a photo of himself as Deadpool wearing a Mickey Mouse hat. Here’s the thing: the Deadpool films are R-rated superhero flicks that aren’t for adults. But…last December, there was a recut version of Deadpool 2 called Once Upon a Deadpool that was rated PG-13. This was mostly done for charity, but it’s a good canary in the coal mine in terms of how Disney will approach more violent superhero stuff like Deadpool or the super-violent X-Men movie, Logan. Disney will likely continue to greenlight gritty superhero movies, but those offerings may be complemented by more kid-appropriate fare.
Feels like the first day of ‘Pool. pic.twitter.com/QVy8fCxgqr
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) March 19, 2019
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And, oh the crossovers we’ll see.
As many comic book dads are keenly aware, acquisition means that the X-Men can now probably show up in “regular” Marvel Movies. This means that, yes, Wolverine could fight the Avengers. But, the reality here is that if this does happen, Disney will almost certainly reboot the X-Men, which means that the upcoming Dark Phoenix film could be the last in a very long, and complicated superhero saga. The likely outcome of a reboot? Pure nostalgia. The X-Men are super popular with parent-aged people. The movies are cartoons are likely to start leaning that way (which isn’t a bad thing).
There’s also this: A theatrical release of the original 1977 cut of Star Wars is almost guaranteed within the next three years now that Disney has the rights.
Because more family-themed entertainment (like superhero movies and animated features) will be under the control of one production company, the obvious impact indirect impact of all this is that there’s likely to be slightly less crap going around. If Disney produces fewer throwaway animated features, it stands to reason that what does come out will be more consistent. And if the company is more effectively leveraging its archive, less can come out. While no one wants to see people lose jobs, this less-is-more approach may ultimately work out in favor of both parents and Disney.