You’ve probably seen the above image… an episode of The Simpsons predicted this move about 20 years ago. Of course that show has been producing about 20 hours of television a year for about 30 years so they’re bound to be right with some of their weird prognostications.
And this time they are. You’ve probably read the articles… Disney plans on buying most of the assets of FOX, as long as the government lets them. And that’s the big question… will the government let them? There’s a lot of politics there and I probably shouldn’t wade too far into that. So let’s talk about the impact to you.
The real big impact right now is that Disney would get almost complete control of Hulu. This would probably cause them to shelve plans for their own streaming service and double down on moving Disney content to Hulu. This might drive away NBC and other studios who currently supply content, and by 2020 Hulu could be a totally different service than it is today. Hulu, like Netflix, is transitioning from a library of old shows and movies into a source for new original content. That may change depending on Disney’s goals for the service.
In the big picture, what really happens is that Disney continues to become a virtually one-stop shop for popular entertainment. They already own so many franchises, from all the ABC shows and ESPN content to Marvel and Disney characters, and this pushes them even further down that road. Communications companies have been consolidating for decades and this is no exception.
The process that ends with Disney taking over Fox could take up to two years. AT&T’s anticipated purchase of Time Warner has been “slow-tracked” and may not close this year, and while it’s easy to say these aren’t apples-to-apples deals,there’s more commonality here than you’d think. AT&T owns DIRECTV, a satellite entertainment company, and Disney’s purchase of Fox gives them a big stake in Sky, another satellite entertainment company. In face, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation once owned a majority of DIRECTV. While neither Disney nor Fox operates a cellular company or internet service provider, both are partners in streaming services and Hulu (soon to be primarily a Disney venture) has a live channels service that competes with DIRECTV NOW.
Really, these deals are about as apples-to-apples as you get. Another similar deal was Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal but remember two things — first of all that was a very different time in politics and in business, and Comcast had to make some very significant concessions to make that deal happen. It’s better to talk about AT&T’s Time Warner deal because it’s happening in the here-and-now.
Whatever happens though, it’s going to take some time, remember that. In the next two years, the face of things in Washington, especially at the FCC, could change drastically. Or it couldn’t. Today’s been a pretty big day in FCC history already, but that’s another story for another day. And probably, for another web site.