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The multi-billion dollar Fox-Disney deal is now set for announcement next week according to the latest news from the US, and there are plenty of questions emerging about the impact on both companies.

For example, it is now clear that if the deal goes through the Mouse Factory could end up as the most dominant streaming video player of all, knocking Netflix, Amazon, and Apple, down the pecking order.

Disney already has significant streaming interests and plans. For example, it deferred on a bid for Netflix a year or so ago (when it was half its current $US80 billion valuation). But this year it bought controlling 75% stake in BAMTech (which is the direct to consumer streaming technology company that was owned by Major League Baseball). That is being used to launch two streaming video services — one for its ESPN sports channel and the other for Disney-branded entertainment. Disney has taken its product off Netflix, ostensibly for its new streaming service, but it had to have also been eyeing the Fox assets when it did so a couple of months ago. If so, it helps to explain why it walked from Netflix.

But if it buys, as many suspect it will, Fox’s stake in the Hulu streaming service, Disney will gain a controlling 66% stake. Comcast (NBCUniversal) owns the remaining 33%. That would give Disney a massive streaming service (compared to what it has now) across sport, branded entertainment (output from its ABC TV Studios) plus its huge libraries of film and TV. If Disney buys all the Fox film and TV studio assets, it will be able to add entertainment cable channels such as Fx to its streaming offers, not to mention the vast Fox cartoon product led by The Simpsons, American Dad etc. The FXNow app of the FX Networks, already offers original and library content from the cable networks, including every episode of The Simpsons.

If all this happens, Disney will have to pull all its streaming offerings together in one huge site and then spend heavily on growing the business and convincing existing Netflix, Amazon, CBS All Access and cable customers to buy its offerings and replace or add to their old services. Depending on how current it makes movie releases on the streaming services, the US cinema sector could be badly damaged if Disney was to offer some of its movies on Hulu, for example, soon after cinema release.

The streaming service will be in addition to the huge roster of movies and TV shows from Fox it will add to its own immense production operation. Deadline.com reckons the combined Disney Fox film studio will be the most dominant the entertainment industry will have ever seen. Star Wars, the X Men series, the Avatar series (and the Fox series can be used to refresh the Disney theme parks), Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and the live action division from Disney studios. Cinema owners are sure to kick up a fuss with US regulators about this side of the deal because it is estimated Disney and Fox Studios could control 36% of the US movie release schedule each year.

Then there’s the future of 21st Century Fox’s 50% stake in Endemol Shine. Does it retain the Shine stake to keep a lock on programs like Masterchef in a slimmer 21st Century Fox free to air network, as well as other scripted and reality programs produced by the joint venture?

But Disney also has a 20% stake in Vice, as does 21st Century Fox, so an acquisition could bring that ownership to 40% for Disney, which gives it a major say in the largest emerging TV business aimed at millennials.

Peter Fray

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