Yesterday’s decision by Disney to buy 21st Century Fox for $52bn coincided with a data release from the UK’s Office for National Statistics showing the strength of the UK’s film industry.
The figures suggested the sector added £7.7bn to the economy last year, up from £5.6bn in 2015 and just £1.8bn in 2008. The release named Paddington and Star Wars as being among the biggest economy-boosters (largely thanks to heavy tax breaks), but the likes of Netflix have also been investing heavily in British made TV shows, with both The Crown and Black Mirror both made in Blighty.
Of course, Netflix’s investment in the UK is not unusual: it and arch-rival Amazon are vying with one another to become the biggest absorbers of our time, with each ploughing millions into markets across the world to create original programming with increasingly vast budgets.
As a result, viewers’ expectations are changing: ad-supported, weekly installments are out; binge-watching box-sets on a subscription model is in. Their expectations of quality are changing, too: if the content is poor, they simply won’t watch it. Under the traditional model, a certain number of viewers were willing to watch programmes simply because there was nothing else on.
So Disney’s decision to buy Fox is understandable. The move will provide it with not only the sheer volume to to compete with its new rivals, but also the quality. It not only means Disney Princesses will finally be united with the handsome princes they have always been awaiting (the X-Men, naturally) but also means when it launches its long-awaited streaming service in 2019, it will have reams of extra content, allowing it to out box-set Netflix.
And if that fails, there is always the 60 per cent share it now owns of Hulu, the streaming service it launched with Fox and Comcast in 2007, which has gained notoriety in the UK in recent months after its serialisation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was aired on Channel 4.
All of which means now, more than ever, the old cliche is true: content is king. Which can only come as good news for viewers.