Disney Tried to Buy Warner Bros. in 2016 Before Buying Fox

A bit of alternate Hollywood history has emerged. Disney had always been a powerhouse studio but they reached another level in 2017 when it was revealed that they were looking to buy most of Fox’s media assets, including all of the 20th Century Fox movie studio. Yet, as it turns out, then Disney CEO Bob Iger had other plans before setting its sights on Fox. And those plans involved buying Warner Bros. back in 2016. Had this happened, we would be living in a wildly different media landscape right now.

AT&T famously purchased Warner Bros. and created WarnerMedia. The telecom giant was looking to shake things up and get into the media business in a massive way. The experiment kind of floundered and, more recently, it was revealed that AT&T is spinning off WarnerMedia, which will instead merge with Discovery. But long before any of these deals happened, Disney came calling about Warner Bros. Had a couple of things gone differently, we could be living in a world without HBO Max. A world in which Disney is making Harry Potter movies and TV shows. A world in which Disney controls Marvel and DC Comics. A radically different world.

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According to a new report, in October of 2016, Disney CEO Bob Iger placed an important phone call to Jeff Bewkes, who was the chief of Time Warner. Iger asked Bewkes if he would be interested in exploring a merger between the two powerhouse companies. Unfortunately for Iger, it was too late. The AT&T deal had already come together behind the scenes mere weeks earlier. Had Iger placed that call in late August/early September, the entire media landscape could be different today. Iger then called Ruper Murdoch and turned attention to Fox.

Disney acquired Fox for several reasons. The $71.3 billion merger was all about streaming. Disney got a huge catalog of titles to exploit for Disney+. They also secured the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four, which is of particular importance since Disney also owns Marvel. That means Marvel Studios is now in control of virtually all of its characters, save for the Spider-Man universe, which is still locked up at Sony. But Warner Bros. would have offered a hugely rich catalog for Disney as well. Looney Tunes. DC. Harry Potter. The studio has a near-endless treasure trove of content that Disney could have used effectively.

Imagine a world in which Disney+ has all of the Harry Potter movies. Where they are making Harry Potter shows right alongside Star Wars shows like The Mandalorian. Where they are in control of the DC Cinematic Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A world where an Avengers vs. Justice League movie could be possible. Yes, having the X-Men and Fantastic Four is important, but it’s truly hard not to wonder what this might have looked like. And the powerhouse Disney+ might have become. This news comes to us via the New York Times.


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