Who directs the film studio? Who has the keys to the realm of television? And will a Murdoch be online for Bob Iger's throne?
There are more questions than answers as the possibility of Disney acquiring the study of 20th Century Fox and other significant assets of 21st Century Fox seems to be gaining strength. CNBC reported Tuesday morning that an agreement worth $ 60 billion or more could be reached next week.
It is understood that high level executives of Disney and Fox held substantive talks during the Thanksgiving break. But sources from both Disney and Fox say there has been no formal communication with the base about the possibility of an agreement. The silence has led to much nervous speculation about how a Disney-Fox marriage would be structured, and what it would mean for senior officials on both sides. The sources warned that the talks remain at the delicate stage without the certainty that an agreement will come to fruition. But that has not stopped experts in the industry from speculating on what the combination of two historic Hollywood brands would look like after the dust settles.
One of the most intriguing questions posed by what it would be The historic union of two Hollywood studios is whether the agreement with Fox could also provide an answer to the protracted process of finding a successor to the President and CEO of Disney, Bob Iger. Peter Rice, the head of the Fox Networks Group who was recently promoted to president of 21st Century Fox, has been seen as a candidate even before the merger discussions took root. Twenty-First Century Fox CEO James Murdoch and CEO Lachlan Murdoch would emerge from the proposed stock transaction with big bets at Disney, thanks to the actions of the Murdoch clan. It can be difficult to imagine a Murdoch working for another media giant, but it has already been speculated that James could seek a role in overseeing international television operations. Sky and Star TV are businesses that he helped grow before moving up to the corporate executive suite a few years ago. Lachlan Murdoch, meanwhile, may be more inclined to stay involved with assets that do not go to Disney: Fox News, Fox Sports, Fox Broadcasting and the group of television stations.
21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch praised Stacey Snider's one-year regime at 20th Century Fox for creatively putting the movie studio in "a good place." But would Snider keep his perch if the studio were sold to Disney? Perhaps 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight will endure as specialized labels within the Disney film universe, which also includes content engines such as Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm and, of course, Walt Disney Pictures. The president of Alan Studios, Alan Horn has had the best hand of any head of study in recent history, thanks in part to the large amount of material at his disposal.
Would there be enough breathing room in the kingdom for Snider to stay under Horn? Or can he be asked to serve as a sorcerer's apprentice for a period? Horn, who has been on the paper since 2012, turns 75 in February. Disney has faced criticism for its lack of female division chiefs, and Snider has a deep resume, having directed Universal, DreamWorks and Fox. Some in Hollywood said they could imagine Fox as an independent production unit within Disney , making more original films in the line of the next Fox Award nominee "The Post", a period drama about the Washington Post during the Watergate era, while Disney continues to focus on the big tentpoles.
The formidable production operation of 20th Century Fox Television is a crown jewel in the Fox empire. The mother ship studio has a deep library and dozens of shows in production at any given time, with notable recent success stories such as "This Is Us" by NBC and "Empire" by Fox. The arm of Fox 21 Television Studios focuses on cable and broadcasts. Together, they deliver a large amount of content from the television series with scripts that travel around the world. There is no doubt that Fox's TV operation is bigger and more profitable than Disney's Disney Studios unit, which has been strengthening its talent roster and diversifying under the direction of President Patrick Moran. Would it gain the size? It is difficult to imagine that Disney maintains parallel operations of television production.
One sensitive consideration here is that the 20 TV studio bosses, Dana Walden and Gary Newman, also oversee Fox's broadcast network, which is not among the assets Disney is looking to buy. (For starters, the FCC rules prohibit a company from owning more than one of the four Big Four networks.) The agreement in its current form will cause Walden and Newman, who have been professional partners since 1999, to be at a crossroads where they have left part of their territory no matter what path they take. Unless, of course, Disney has bigger plans for the couple, or Walden and Newman have their own plans. Walden's name has appeared on Jeff Bezos' wish list for the vacancy at Amazon Studios.
The rating of Fox FX Networks cable group has to come with a special premium for the Landgraf factor. FX Networks CEO John Landgraf is one of the most respected programmers and managers of the creative talent in the industry. He has been on the short list of important network and study vacancies for a decade. In FX, he has formed a loyal team of executives who have exceeded their weight with a combination of prestigious high-end programs ("The People VOJ Simpson: American Crime Story", "The Americans") and public enthusiasts ("American"). Horror Story, "" Children of Anarchy ").
Given this history, it would not be surprising to see Landgraf and Co. looking for a larger profile within an expanded Disney television group. The type would have implications for senior Disney / ABC TV Group executives who would start with President Ben Sherwood.
The National Geographic Channels group, led by Courteney Monroe, will likely remain an autonomous entity even after a sale, since Fox owns most, but not all, of that joint venture with the National Geographic Society.
Meanwhile, the 22nd Fox Sports regional cable channels would easily join the op ESPN, which has long operated autonomously from Disney / ABC TV Group. The Fox Fox Fox 1 and Fox Fox Fox 2 national chains are not part of the sales equation, since they will surely generate antitrust red flags if combined with ESPN. ESPN has not been in the business of regional sports networks, but the expansion with Fox RSN could be an obstacle on the regulatory front.
Fox's collection of more than 300 international cable channels, its participation in the Euro Satcaster Sky and the growing business of Star India TV are a big part of the appeal of the agreement for Disney. The assets of international television are not as important as the names of Hollywood brands, but they represent a great potential for growth in an area where Disney is lagging behind its traditional media rivals. With little overlap, Disney would probably look to keep the existing management running, at least in the short term.
(Pictured: Stacey Snider, Peter Rice, John Landgraf, Dana Walden and Gary Newman)