While everyone is eagerly waiting for fan-favorite characters, currently owned by Fox, to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe it seems it may not happen given a recent court ruling changing the landscape of mergers. This vertical merger that I speak of is the AT&T-Warner Bros. acquisition which the United States Justice Department’s antitrust division unsuccessfully tried to block. I know corporation law is not the most exciting thing to read about and many may already be clicking on to the next article. However, entertainment reporting also involves covering the eye-glazing monotony known as the inner workings of corporations. I do assure you that this article does have some important information on the future of the MCU.
It is often hard to follow news on business acquisitions which is often meant for shareholders and breaking down the business lingo almost requires an MBA. However, the Disney-Fox deal was on track with lawyers going over the merger which takes a year or so with the sizes of these companies. It appeared to be a foregone conclusion that the deal would go through, eventually, as indicated by Kevin Feige who was just waiting on a “phone call” at the Produced by Conference this past weekend. There is even a vote of Fox’s shareholders which is currently set July 10th to decide the fate of the company. These are all signals that this was a green light and this deal was proceeding nearing its destination.
“I’m just sitting, waiting for a phone call to say yay or nay,” Kevin Feige said to TheWrap reporter Umberto Gonzalez. “But obviously it would be nice to have access to that entire library.”
This week the AT&T-Warner Bros. merger changed the corporate landscape which will likely create a game of corporate Hungry Hungry Hippos. Richard Leon, Senior Judge, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the AT&T and Warner Bros. merger. Many expected this ruling to be shot down and the current administration was heavily opposed due to believing it would hurt the consumer. This was quite the opposite, in fact, being a lopsided victory for corporations changing the antitrust laws in the New Media Age. While it appears to be fast-tracked for completion it may be taken to the Supreme Court where long-standing cases like the Clayton and Sherman Acts may reverse the decision.
What appeared to be a separate event quickly stated to show ramifications, as Comcast is now looking to buy Fox to the chagrin of Disney. Essentially the potential Comcast and Fox merger is the same situation as AT&T and Warner Bros. as it is distributors buying companies making content. This is not a surprise as this has been the trend in the entertainment industry, especially with streaming services, as Amazon has become a distributor and content creator creating shows like The Tick and the untitled Lord of the Rings series. It should also be noted that when Comcast first came to Rupert Murdoch he turned it down due to believing that the government would, successfully, block any merger of the type. Now, these vertical mergers have been unleashed with the court ruling in the U.S. District Court. With Judge Leon urging against any further government resistance it would likely mean that the Department of Justice will steer away from any further resistance in the media realm.
You may be asking how Comcast could jump in front of Disney to get to the buffet of available characters. The answer to that as it usually always is with Corporate America is with a bigger offer—in this case, $65 billion cash! Disney came in with December a deal that was worth $52.4 billion in stock which shows that Disney just got significantly sidelined. It is very difficult to see Disney let all their legwork on the potential deal get poached without a fight which would start a bidding war for 21st Century Fox. The shareholders meeting that was scheduled for July 10th now is likely to be pushed back as the bidding process starts anew with Comcast being currently in command for Marvel’s First Family.
This delay will likely allow for the continuation of X-Men films in production as well as the conceptualization of new films. The current slate for Fox includes Dark Phoenix, The New Mutants, and Gambit (if it ever makes it into production). Clearly, Fox is running on all cylinders cranking out films that are still very much in demand, though it does appear the X-Men franchise is burning out for some fans, as X-Men: Apocalypse saw a significant 27% drop in the box office numbers when compared to Days of Future Past. It’s hard not to imagine Marvel being reunited but with reality proving otherwise, what would a Comcast-owned X-Men and Fantastic Four franchise even would like? It would be safe to assume that with the substantial offer put forth they at least have some idea where to take the Marvel properties. This could very well mean another reboot which likely wouldn’t be received well with the fanbase which many were supporting the opposite side of the bidding war. However, continuing with the status quo might not be the greatest solution but would capitalize on the successful properties like Deadpool. Whoever ends up with Fox’s assets as long as there is some life shot into the X-Men series it would be a welcome sight.
Long story short, this week’s court ruling in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia allowing for AT&T and Warner Bros. merger has changed the direction of where Fox’s Marvel properties will end up. Comcast has come, relatively at the last second, and laid down a massive $65 billion cash offer that will likely spark a bidding war over 21st Century Fox. The meeting to vote on the Disney merger is still planned for July 10th though it is very likely to be canceled as Fox mulls over Comcast’s offer. What the fate of fan favorite Marvel characters like Wolverine, Deadpool, and Magneto is still be seen, though the chances of them ending up in the MCU were better yesterday than they are today. I hope you found this article informative and the least dry a piece on corporate consolidation relating to the dynamics of content creators and distributors can be.
Let us know your thoughts. What do you think Comcast owned Marvel properties would look like?