It’s been about a month since we learned that Disney was engaged in talks to buy “most of” 21st Century Fox. But considering that we were already hearing about the talks stalling within days of learning of their existence, it’s certainly been a busy month. After the supposed stalling of the talks, we quickly learned that Disney’s interest in acquiring the studio was driven at least in part by a desire to use Fox’s extensive library of film and television content to bolster the library of their upcoming streaming service (which CEO Bob Iger has promised will cost less than Netflix). Then over the next few weeks, we learned that there were other interested parties as well, among them Comcast and later Sony.
Now, at last, things have come full circle. After reports surfaced over the weekend that Disney had re-engaged in talks with Fox, we are now hearing that the two entities are close to reaching a deal, with an official announcement potentially coming as early as next week. According to CNBC, the Fox assets involved in the sale are valued at an estimated $60 billion, dwarfing the billion dollar bids that Disney made for Marvel and Lucasfilm. Assuming the sale goes through, it would do more than just bolster Disney’s eventual streaming library. While details are sparse, it is expected to cover most if not all of Fox’s television and film production assets, leaving the Murdoch media empire with its sports and news outlets intact. It would also likely include Fox’s thirty percent stake in Hulu, which if nothing else would provide a solid fallback position if Disney’s streaming ambitions don’t pan out.
As we’ve covered before, the potential ramifications of this sale are huge for genre fans. The biggest, of course, is the return of the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights to Marvel and the subsequent integration of those characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And then, of course, there’s ‘Star Wars’. This sale would not only bring the distribution rights to the first six films back to Lucasfilm (the distribution rights to the original film are held in perpetuity by Fox, with rights to the other five due to revert in 2020). The hope among fans is that this would allow at least the possibility of a proper high definition re-release of the theatrical version of the original trilogy. Though as always, I would advise against getting your hopes up for that one. But at the very least, it would allow the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare to return to its rightful place at the beginning of each film.
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