Could Disney Strip-mine 20th Century Fox Acquisition And Sell The Scraps?

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Analysts like those at MoffetNathanson want Disney to sell off the 20th Century Fox assets and exit the general entertainment business. Why would they sell the stuff Disney JUST overpaid 70 billion for and have barely even used in USA? We think that’s stupid and Disney should keep it rather than admit failure and doom Disney+ to be a babysitter, but what about this?

What if Disney strip-mined the former 20th Century Fox assets, plucked out the gems, and sold the remains? It could STILL be worth 10 -20 billion but be put to better use by a company that respects the history and legacy behind the Fox brand. Let me explain by first sharing what they should KEEP:

1️⃣ FX

Owning this prestige TV brand makes Disney better. Keep the channel and the series that Disney has rights to.

2️⃣ Searchlight

Owning this prestige film brand makes Disney better.

If these two brands got brand tiles on Disney+, Disney+ would no longer suck in USA (sorry) and could be transformed into a highly respectable service. Disney bought out deals for Disney Pictures, Marvel, and Star Wars films before launch. The Searchlight film library is about 205 films. Buying these deals out and adding them would be a good way to grow Disney’s audience while dropping in hundreds of AWARD-WINNING and nominated films. And while they’re at it, they should include in small text at the bottom on the logo “A Disney company” or something. I mean, the Fox Searchlight logo literally said “A News Corporation company” so why is Disney hiding their association with this incredible brand?! The 20th Century Fox logo also said this.

3️⃣ The Simpsons

Obviously, this brand can and will always be important to Disney now. Spin-offs and Disney+ original movies should be in the works. Random question, but why doesn’t Disney include their branding on The Simpsons logo? If I were them one of the first things I’d do after buying Fox is alter the logo so that people know it’s mine. They brand everything else…

4️⃣ Animation Domination

Some of the most popular animated series of all-time air or aired under Fox’s Animation Domination brand. 20th TV Animation produced most of them. Family Guy ranked as the #3 most watched series on Disney+ worldwide in 2022… that’s without even being available in USA or Latin America, Disney’s largest markets. Shifting Family Guy over from Hulu and Star+ is a no-brainer. Hulu doesn’t need it, Disney+ does. If Disney wanted to sell off 20th Century Fox, holding onto Cleveland Show, Bob’s Burgers, The Great North, Futurama, and King of the Hill would be the wise choice.

5️⃣ Big Franchises

Important or useful franchises like X-MEN (obviously), PLANET OF THE APES, ALIEN, PREDATOR, and AVATAR must remain with Disney. Keep the gems. There are over 2,500 Fox films! Even keeping 250 of the best and most useful to Disney would still leave 90% (aka thousands of films) for the new buyer. Somebody looking for additional scale would pay up.

6️⃣ Miscellaneous Rights

Any miscellaneous rights that were “cleaned up” in the purchase should stick. This includes the original STAR WARS trilogy rights that were still tangled with Fox before 2019’s purchase. For example, if Disney and 20th Century Fox used to split international / domestic distribution for a film or series, keep those rights. Don’t just go back to Disney sharing rights with someone new. This wouldn’t be a ton of titles they hold back. Sidebar: Isn’t it sad that Disney / Paramount have split rights for Titanic? Disney has it outside USA but domestically, it’s a James Cameron film they CAN’T stream on Disney+.

7️⃣ Hotstar

It’s a badass name that I still think Disney should have used as the name for their entire Disney+ service. Sell the more generic Star brand and Star linear channels since those are basically just Fox channels rebranded. Rebrand Star tile to Hotstar and repurpose it as your general entertainment brand instead of your Indian content brand.

I’m probably forgetting somethings, but you get the gist.

That sounds like a lot of big things, how could 20th Century Fox remains have any value after that? It’s true, it would be a bloodbath… but there would remain over 2,000 films and probably 1,000 series that would be packaged together along with all those international linear Star channels and other miscellaneous assets. That’s still billions of dollars and whoever gets it might care more than Disney does.

Disney Has A Terrible Track Record With Vintage Content

Let’s put it this way, there are more than 1,000 vintage Fox films from the early 1900s up to 1975. Disney will never, ever care about the oldest Fox catalog. They will never use it, restore it, or stream it. Even those films that are in the Public Domain and would cost them nothing to upload to Disney+ under a special collection or vintage hub. They do not care.

There are companies out there who would absolutely KILL to have the earliest Fox films from the 1990-1940 range under their control. Their earliest films were released under the Fox Film or 20th Century Pictures companies which later merged into 20th Century Fox. Amongst that library are a bunch of lost films, silent films, and films in the public domain… but films that Disney will never show an ounce of respect to. Why should Disney own HUNDREDS of titles they will NEVER use when another company, like Shout Factory, might ACTUALLY do the work to make them available to the public?

What Other Brands Could Disney Sell?

Should Disney Sell Freeform / Fox Kids?

Alternatively, what if Disney sold off the channel Freeform and the films / series in its library? When Disney bought Fox Family channel 20 years or so it came with a lineup of television series from the Fox Kids brand. Disney refuses to use them, showering them in disrespect. Outside of the Spider-Man, X-Men, and Silver Surfer 90s cartoons, they’ve buried everything else. Same thing with the Fox Family / ABC Family / Freeform film lineup. There have been about 150 “original” movies from this brand. The team at Disney+ is streaming none of them and went as far as to remove the 6 that had been streaming since launch back in October.

Since Disney refuses to utilize this film catalog that would provide a nostalgic boost and good dose of light general entertainment, they should sell the whole package to someone who will restore and stream them with pride. Everything from 1998’s Earthquake in New York to 1990’s Clarence to 2004’s Celeste in the City deserves to be seen again.

I always dreamed of Disney designating Disney+ home to the Freeform film / series library and dropping in the hundreds of classic live action shows as well as Fox Kids cartoons. Since it’s clear Disney will never do that, why not sell them to Paramount or Universal or even WBD which would probably dump them on their upcoming FAST service?

Should Disney Sell Touchstone Pictures / Hollywood Pictures?

I’d also argue they should include the Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures film libraries. Same reasons – they won’t use them. Since launch those films have been circling every service BUT Disney+. From month to month we’ve tracked the Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures films they license out as they shift from Peacock to Prime Video to Freevee to Paramount+ and to Roku or YouTube Movies. I don’t think it’s pre-existing deals anymore. I think Disney set aside these two film libraries prior to Disney+ launch as two safe revenue sources to replace the many contracts they bought out. They own them just to sell them to FAST services, cable networks, and competitors willing to pay to stream them in 1-3 months increments.

Instead, I’d like them to sell the libraries off completely to a company that might drop the titles on their own streaming service and unify them. Disney also choose to use about half of these films, the other half are just lost out there. Maybe the new owner would see a 400 film library and think it had more value if available to its customers.

So when people say Disney should sell ESPN, ABC, Freeform, 20th Century Fox… I’d counter with this option.

What Disney Should Sell

1️⃣ ESPN

ESPN would be first to go for me. The rights will keep soaring in cost and I do not want Disney wasting money in those negotiations. If you insist on having sporty stuff, just keep the 30 for 30 library and sports documentaries as your own and sell the rest to some other sucker. They’ll also never 100% own any of these sprots franchises or broadcasts so why pay billions of dollars to broadcast them? Maybe Disney could stay involved with a 20-25% share, but they could still make billions buy selling most of their 80%.

2️⃣ Hulu

Stop holding Disney+ back by getting rid of Hulu. Give it all to Comcast so they can rebrand Peacock to Hulu and combine the libraries. It gets a service off the market and saves everyone money, plus it makes Comcast actual competition. I’d keep the Peacock base over Hulu’s extremely dated undercarriage and just rename it Hulu. Then we’d go global with it. Then I’d buy Paramount (without CBS) and fold Paramount+ and Showtime into it.

Hulu Logo

3️⃣ Touchstone Pictures / Hollywood Pictures / Freeform Package

My 3rd choice would be to sell off the Touchstone / Hollywood / Freeform catalogs. Between films and shows that’s like 1,000 titles. The beauty of this deal is it’s not even destroying Disney’s general entertainment lineup potential. It just gets rid of the random pieces. Touchstone / Hollywood libraries are “done” and for all intents and purposes the Fox Family / ABC Family / Freeform original film lineup ended with 2020’s The Thing About Harry! February marks 3 years since that film released, the longest time between films in that lineup since December 2013 – December 2016 which was also 3 years exactly. The difference is this hiatus will continue as no films are planned. I think Disney is just done with them.

20th Century Studios and Searchlight are still releasing regular films and series  so let that be Disney’s general entertainment arm and let them give away their old attempts that they’ve abandoned or chosen to license instead of stream. It would save money and eliminate the debate online of whether Touchstone / Hollywood Pictures should have a brand tile. Just give them to someone who might use them better than Disney who treats those films like the town bicycle by giving everyone a ride.

Look around some month at the lists that are released for new content coming to Peacock, Paramount+, HBO Max, Roku, etc… you’d be surprised. Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures films to each one, every month. Since launch over 3 years ago. That’s not pre-existing. That Disney choosing to send those films everywhere BUT Disney+. Also consider outside USA they’ve dropped 1/3 – ½ of those films under the Star tile. So they know HOW to stream them, they just won’t in the USA. For that reason I say SELL THE BRANDS  and move on. If Disney were to content drop Touchstone / Hollywood / Freeform titles on Disney+ I would no longer feel this way. Use it or lose it!

4️⃣ A&E Networks

I genuinely do not understand why they insist on keeping their 50% stake in the A&E Networks when they already had to sell it in some countries to acquire Fox. This was an antitrust compromise they had to adhere to. Why didn’t they just sell it everywhere? Who needs a handful of linear channels you only own halfway that produce Zaslav-esque cheap, unscripted crap? The content library from History, A&E, FYI, and Lifetime is duplicated across 4-5 streaming services and has no real value. I’d love to know just how much revenue Disney makes off A&E each year. Must be enough.

Like my other sale choices, I’d change my tune if Disney went all-in. Drop 500 A&E Networks titles on Disney+, make it the exclusive streaming home to all Lifetime movies, and pick up another 25% stake and I might say keep it to combat the influx of Discovery+ content coming to HBO Max this spring.

5️⃣ 20th Century Fox

As long as they keep the parts I outlined in the first portion of this article, I say get rid of the rest!

Closing Thoughts

The Walt Disney Company currently has over 40 billion in debt. They need to stop screwing around and pay it down by making the company slimmer. I’ve outlined the fat they can trim, will Robert Iger do it?

Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.