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Deal rumors: WTF(ox), Disney?

Tod from The Fox and the Hound

          Disney’s other fox

Media branding is something I’ve addressed before, and the recent news about Disney looking to buy assets from 21st Century Fox brings that to consideration again. While there are plenty of reasons for such a deal to go down, particularly in terms of feeding the need for content of Disney’s new SVOD service, how well do those assets mesh with the Mouse’s umbrella brand, in particular with its TV brand?

Certainly the National Geographic channels fit nicely inside, especially with the emergence of the Disneynature brand over the last few years. FX is another question. While I very much enjoy most of their series, their aspirations to be the new HBO also means very edgy content. I think one episode of Feud had more f-words than I’ve heard on all of basic cable in my lifetime. Would Disney “own” the edginess or try to hold it at arm’s length in the same manner it created Touchstone Films in the 1980s to release non-G-rated movies?

This isn’t to say that Disney hasn’t stepped over its own bounds. There are plenty of examples in their early evening ABC comedies where I would cringe if my son was still 10 years old (I’m no prude but is it really necessary for Adam on The Goldbergs to say “balls” multiple times an episode?). And Freeform/ABC Family has certainly pushed the limits on some of its programming for years to attract its angsty young adult audience.

How broad should the Disney brand stretch

So if Disney has already been blurring the borders of its family-friendly, inclusive TV brand, would the potential additions from Fox really be an issue – and if not, then what does that say about Disney’s brand going forward? Does its media side just become an amorphous blob like Viacom, which doesn’t stand for anything other than a media holding company with disparate networks? It would be interesting to be a mouse in Iger’s office wall and overhear the discussions…

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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