Disney plans to acquire 21st Century Fox in order to create scale for its OTT Netflix competitor. We previously wrote about the deal announcement here. Post close, the content streaming game is effectively a two-horse race between Netflix and Disney. Game over you say? Au contraire – the game has just begun!
No, we’re not referring to bit player Hulu – which Disney will own 60% of post Fox deal close. Rather, the media/technology landscape is not static. Apple plans to invest $1 billion in original content (TV and film). Amazon is a content juggernaut and will have invested approximately $5 billion in video content during calendar year 2017 (Netflix approximately $6 billion over the same period, $8 billion in 2018). Facebook announced a deal with the NFL in September 2017 to stream game highlights and is reportedly looking to hire executives to secure the rights to additional live sports-related content. Could TV and film be far behind for Facebook? You may have noticed that Google is pushing its YouTube subscription service if you’ve watched a YouTube video lately. However, we haven’t heard rumblings of YouTube looking to become aggressive in acquiring third-party content or investing in original content. Video content libraries are grist for the mill for these content giants. Every independent video content provider and content library (i.e. movie & TV studios) is “in-play.”
A combined Disney/Fox OTT service and Netflix are the clear OTT content leaders. However, when the dust settles we suspect that both Disney/Fox and Netflix will be acquired by some combination of Apple, Amazon and Facebook. Apple and Disney have a relationship and therefore we would favor Apple as the likely Disney acquirer. It is unclear if Apple would initiate takeover talks with Disney or if Tim Cook is a counter-puncher and would wait for another company to move first on Disney before making an approach. Our view is that Apple, Amazon or Facebook could potentially move on Disney as soon as the Fox deal closes or nears close. Disney negotiations with Apple or any potential suitor would likely put Netflix in play. This time around it may be more difficult for Reed Hastings to resist.