Disney+ arrives in the UK very soon. Disney also joins the list of the biggest Media Consolidations in history

Exactly a month to go before Disney+ arrives in the UK. And UK content creators, broadcasters and distributers should be worried. There’s more behind the scenes of Disney than the otherwise simple offering of a new streaming subscription choice for audience.

A year previous from the March 24th UK launch date; March 20th 2019 marked the entry of Disney to the list of the biggest media consolidations with the acquisition of 21st Century Fox stock for an impressive $71.3 billion (~£55.1 billion), only just fending off Comcast. Placing them 4th in the historical rankings of media mergers; just missing out on the top 20 with 21st place of all-time historical mega-mergers.^

So what did they buy? Here’s a summary of what the acquisition included:

  • Movie titles: includes the franchise of Avatar, Titanic, Alien and Predator
  • TV shows: such as Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons, Family Guy and Modern Family
  • Movie studios: 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures — Disney dropped the wording ‘Fox’ from these two brands on January 17th 2020. Fox 2000 Pictures, at least until May 15th 2020. Fox Family, Fox VFX Lab, 20th Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios and Fox Music *
  • TV studios: 20th Century Fox Television (20th Television) which includes Fox 21 Television Studios and Fox TV Animation **
  • TV networks: FX, FXX, FX Movie Channel, FX Productions, National Geographic TV, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo **
  • A 30% controlling stakeholder share of Hulu: actually takes Disney up to a whopping 60% controlling share as they previously owned their own 30%
  • Xmen, Fantastic Four and Deadpool characters: a reunion I’m sure that will be interesting for the previously split-off fans of Marvel
  • Star India Channel: this enormous family of sports and entertainment has been added to Disney India***

That’s a mammoth bag of swag that Disney have acquired, securing them a place amongst the global media ‘ Big 6’ (currently Apple, Amazon, AT&T, Comcast, Disney and Netflix at time of writing this article). It almost removes Rupert Murdoch from Entertainment, leaving Murdoch still with the largest stake in News. The acquisition is said to be around 74% of 21st Century Fox’s original stock.

Rapid growth of Silicon Valley has been tipped off by economists to be responsible for this trend of traditional media mega-mergers, suggesting to be an attempt to stave off tech domination. Leaving only speculation from that theory to reason why the consolidation was lawfully allowed to take place. A more evidence based reasoning discussed by Ted Johnson, Senior Editor for news website variety.com, is more likely to explain why the merger is not unlawful. Johnson goes on to explain…

“Disney and Fox also did not have to secure the FCC’s approval, given that there were no license transfers that would trigger a review by regulators there. Doing so would have opened up the transaction to a new level of scrutiny and attention, as the FCC determines if a merger is in the public interest and typically puts a merger on the docket for public comment. Congress does not vote on mergers, but typically holds hearings on major media transactions. None was held for the Disney-Fox deal. For his part, President Trump appeared to give the deal his blessing on the day the transaction was announced.” ****

The impact of this Disney-Fox Mega-Merger?

It means the position of Disney will gain more international retail and promote them to becoming a world competitor for the likes of Amazon and Netflix. The impact on UK content creators, broadcasters and distributors competing for their share of ‘eyes on screen’ figures is under significant risk. Policy makers across UK companies should already be proactive to make sure they don’t become drowned out in this ‘streaming apocalypse’. Meaning that consumers will be forced to be selective over which services they subscribe as the cost becomes too expensive to use all services in a single household. Potentially leaving the traditional media unable to reach and communicate to a majority audience in their own backyard, as increasing numbers become locked in to competing subscriptions.

Why Disney+ UI should be considered as strong competition for designers

It’s beautifully simple. No point in fluffing up a review of the UI. You’ve never used it before, but you already know how to use it. The categorisation on the home-screen is obviously brand and franchise focussed with the options of Star Wars, Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and National Geographic.

Disney+ Home-screen UI preview

I’ve read countless reviews which compare the UI to that of Apple TV when it feels like the anticipation was to be a copycat of Netflix.

Disney+ search screen preview — note you can search by character name across the whole catalogue

One feature worthy of pointing out is the option to search via ‘character’ across the whole catalogue. Has some UI/UX research in user-focus groups been done into how young audience discover content?

Could the simple UI be a clever considered approach to language barriers? Remove the need to read from a UI in favour of character focussed imagery — and you can imagine the appeal for perhaps an even younger audience to be confident enough to engage and navigate content.

The generous offering of being able to “freely” download content on up to 10 different devices is going to be a massive win over competition for Disney too.

Why this should be scary for UK Democracy

What remains of the days where UK broadcasters and distributors of News arrange deals with TV manufactures to protect their prominence within both the TV’s UI and EPG, to negotiate product relevance for a UK market? How will the designs of TV remotes evolve in ‘x’ number of years with the battle of the buttons — Netflix for years have dominating buttons on remotes for Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Sharp and more — with Amazon in close pursuit. What will become of the EPG itself — will it disappear altogether as audience trend continues to shift towards streaming service subscriptions?

There are serious questions where — in the middle of these media mega-mergers, the streaming apocalypse and the TV remote button battle — will public service and news communication exist? How will it continue to communicate to a majority amongst a fragmented audience? Will the integrity of public service and news communication be at risk of business led agenda in an attempt to reach and retain a majority audience? How will this impact the relationship and trust of communication between the public and the Government? And finally how will the public remain both informed and involved with UK democracy?

Want to work together? I’m always open to hearing about interesting opportunities: info@melissawood.co.uk

Footnotes / Credits:

^ data aggregated from Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_mergers_and_acquisitions#1870s

* data obtained from Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Disney_Studios_(division)#2020s

** data obtained from Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Disney_Television

*** data obtained from Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Walt_Disney_Company_India

**** supporting quote obtained from the article ‘How the Disney-Fox Deal Got DOJ’s Greenlight Quicker Than Expected’ written by Ted Johnson: https://variety.com/2018/politics/news/disney-fox-merger-justice-department-1202859900/

Technology Consultant. Writes insights on emerging technology, their applied use and political impact. Focus: RPA, AI, Media Manipulation, Voice Discovery