Disney continues to absorb other companies and build its empire. First it was Marvel Comics, then Lucasfilm. (Do they own Indiana Jones now, too? All you here about is they own Star Wars but didn’t they buy all of Lucasfilm?) Now they’ve taken the entertainment wing of Fox, which includes longtime movie company 20th Century Fox, the Fox TV Networks, and their portion of Hulu. And since Disney bought Capital Cities, and thus ABC and ESPN, they now own more of Hulu. They have a huge empire right now.
But why did Disney buy Fox and why did Fox go along with it, keeping only their news and sports services? Midnight’s Edge has a few ideas, and I have some of my own thoughts beyond that. And online streaming may play a huge part.
The first point I want to address is what’s going on with theaters. Why are people more willing to watch from home or their computers and mobile devices? Even with Smart TVs and partnerships with cable (we used to be on Optimum, who partnered with Hulu, while Frontier has a Netflix channel) unless you have a lot of money and a really huge living space (some people even find room to create an in-house movie theater) seeing something on the TV isn’t the same as the large theater screen. I remember when seeing someone playing video games on a movie screen was a news story. And I’ve tried watching movies on my tablet and smartphone, and the only advantage there is portability. Why watch a movie on a screen the size of a chocolate bar when you can see it on the big screen?
The movie-going experience isn’t what it used to be. While some of that can be blamed on higher prices at the theater in a rough economy, there’s also the problem of rude people killing the experience. Whether they refuse to turn off their smartphones, either having phone conversations or distracting with the lights of the screen, you also have jerks who think they’re on the Satellite Of Love and riff the movie or joke with their friends without caring who hears them. At least when my friends comment to me it’s only to me and not yelling it out loud. Certainly the shootings haven’t helped, as fear and rage seem to be how some people communicate nowadays. While theaters try everything they can to offer things you can’t get on the TV or home projector, like seating, live event simulcasts, and IMAX and other innovations people are just too rude and who wants to pay $10 to put up with that? It’s getting tougher and more expensive to leave the house but to go into that would be to draw politics in and I don’t care to do that on this site.
As for streaming over owning the physical copy…audiences do so at a risk. Even official hosts can eventually lose a license and movies disappear. Additionally there are shows and movie made for the web that may disappear if the channel closes on something like YouTube or Vimeo. In these cases you end up losing your media even if you paid for it. When Wowio went down, all the comics and books I got through that service went with them and I’ll probably never see some of those again. It was how I reviewed Revolution Of The Mask, for example. I do have Vudu because of the Walmart extras for their early showing of Man Of Steel and I make good use of it, but with companies pulling stuff down to start their own streaming services and other losses of license anything that I have exclusively from there could be gone at any time.
Hollywood’s unwillingness lately to experiment while independent creators on YouTube and Vimeo, plus sites like YouTube Red (their subscription service NOT done at the cost of what drew people to YouTube in the first place), Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime also play a role I think. Rare is the studio that is willing to try new things and when they do, it’s actually something somebody else already did without realizing how they did it. The best example is Marvel Studios creating a shared universe, which Warner Brothers (with DC, which WB appears to be scrapping in favor of unconnected movies) and Universal (their “Dark Universe” reboot of the classic Universal Monsters crashed and burned right out of the gate) tried to do and failed to understand. Somebody trying something new is rare because they’re afraid to fail…and end up failing anyway. Online shows and movies innovate in story since they can only do so much otherwise, not being able to afford the high-end creators, actors, and effects artists. It may actually be a benefit to those online studios. And yet somehow the live-action theatrical status symbol remains in Hollywood.
As far as everyone making their own streaming service…that’s a commentary by itself.
I’m not sure what the future holds for the latest arm of the Disney empire but Disney owns plenty of studios and distributors, each doing their own thing:
- Disney (of course) and their channels and subsidiaries
- Touchstone Pictures
- ABC (and Freeform, formerly ABC Family)
- ESPN, and anything else owned or partially owned by Capital Cities–which is a longer list than I knew
- Maker Studios (at the cost of the defunct hosting service Blip, which Maker raided to make themselves look better to Disney and is now part of their Disney Digital Network)
- Marvel Studios (and Marvel Comics)
- The Muppet Show arm of the Muppets (the Sesame Street Muppets are owned by the show)
- 20th Century Fox and the Fox TV networks
Bunea Vista was just Disney’s distribution arm but now they use the other offerings from the above list. This is still a good chunk of the TV, movie, home video, and currently existing internet offerings. And each of them operates for the most part on their own. We probably won’t see much change in how they operate, but it will give Disney more properties to play with and expand their wallets. How much will translate into more programming options for us has yet to be seen but things are about to get more interesting.