In a surprising, but almost predictable move, Hope Hicks—President Donald Trump’s former White House communications director—was named an executive vice president and chief communications officer of the “New Fox” company. Though not exactly expected, the hiring did not shock many commentators given her former boss’ positive relationship with Fox News, which the new Fox will remain in control of following the sale of 21st Century Fox’s assets to Disney early next year.
But what exactly is the new Fox, and what other assets will it keep—if any—following Disney’s blockbuster $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, subject to approval by international regulators? If Disney buys Fox, how is there a Fox left—yet alone a new one? Here’s what you need to know about Hicks’ new employer.
What is ‘New Fox’?
New Fox is the company that will emerge from the ashes of 21st Century Fox’s sale to Disney, which is expected to be completed in early 2019. The Mouse House is acquiring a significant chunk of 21st Century Fox, including its prized movie and television studios, but not the entire company, and the remaining assets will be aligned under a spun-off company simply known as FOX. “New Fox” is not the company’s official name, but rather a nickname used internally and in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Which assets will the new Fox have? What does Disney get?
Fox will retain the right-leaning news network Fox News. It also is keeping its business network, Fox Business, along with its national sports arm, which includes the cable channels FS1 and FS2. Last, but certainly not least, Fox will maintain hold over its flagship broadcast channel of the same name and its corresponding regional stations.
Disney, meanwhile, will acquire 20th Century Fox, one of the “big six” American film studios, as well as its television division, which includes the cable channel FX. Taken together, that includes iconic titles such as the X-Men films, The Simpsons, This Is Us, American Horror Story, Homeland, and the distribution rights to the original Star Wars film, which eluded Disney despite its 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm. It’s unclear if Disney will pull from the Fox network shows like The Simpsons, which has run on the broadcast channel for 30 seasons and is the longest-running primetime scripted series on TV.
What else does Disney get? The collection of Fox regional sports networks, though the newly-created Fox, as mentioned, will retain the 24-hour sports cable channels FS1 and FS2 as well as its regional broadcast networks. With that said, Disney’s newly acquired sports channels, which often carry exclusive local broadcast rights, should provide support to its own sporting empire, ESPN. Additionally, Fox is parting ways with its majority stake in the National Geographic channel and a host of international networks, including Star India, one of the largest media conglomerates in India.
Why did Fox and Disney decide to split the assets this way?
It’s not exactly clear why Rupert Murdoch and co. decided to sell to Disney at this point after decades of building an empire, but the media mogul has at least explained his strategy going forward. During an investors call in December, the media mogul said the new Fox “will be a growth company centered on live news and sports and the brand strength of the Fox Network… probably the strongest brand in all of television.”
When you look at Fox’s remaining assets, that makes sense. By keeping its broadcast network, Fox News and Fox Sports, the company can focus on live television, which is not only significantly cheaper to produce than scripted programming and feature films, but relatively unchanging—unlike the rest of the film and television industry, which has been upended by tech disruptors like Netflix and Amazon (not to mention Disney’s own upcoming streaming service).
All told, analysts expect the new Fox to be worth around $13 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Despite its dramatic downsizing, the reborn Fox will be on par with the likes of Viacom in terms of overall worth, and equipped with a sizable fortune from Disney to reinvest.
Will Rupert Murdoch still be in charge?
Not quite. Though Murdoch remains the executive chairman of Fox News, the new Fox company will be headed by his eldest son, Lachlan Murdoch, who will serve as chairman and CEO. His father will still play a role, however, serving as co-chairman. John Nallen, who now serves as 21st Century Fox’s chief financial officer, will assume the role of chief operating officer at the new Fox.