A quick perusal around the internet over the last 24 hours will reveal a juicy yet baseless rumor making the rounds: Disney is going to buy Sony Pictures specifically to acquire the remainder of the Marvel Comics character library. As enticing as this gossip may sound for comic book obsessives who would love to see the Disney-owned Marvel Studios complete its collection, logic has other plans.
Here’s every reason why Disney will not be buying out Sony when it comes to Marvel.
Sony isn’t for sale
Sony Pictures has long been a source of speculation when it comes to Hollywood’s ravenous merger and acquisition appetite. Sony Group, which was once rumored to be eyeing an exit from Hollywood to better focus on its core businesses, could make a pretty penny on the open market by dangling the entertainment division. But in May, CEO Yoshida Kenichiro shot down that possibility by reaffirming that Sony Pictures is not for sale. Definitively.
The CEO is happy with Sony Pictures’ position as the lone major content arms dealer in Hollywood, which has led to big money licensing deals with the industry’s biggest studios. Speaking of which…
Sony and Disney have already struck a licensing deal
Back in April, Sony and Netflix agreed to a massive Pay 1 window licensing deal rumored to be worth $3 billion. Two weeks later, the company struck a Pay 2 licensing pact with Disney. You simply don’t lock in those two long-term agreements if a sale is in the near-term future. (You also don’t go out and spend $1.2 billion to acquire anime streaming service Crunchyroll, as Sony did in April, if you want to rid yourself of your entertainment division). It’s just not a sound strategy and would further complicate a future sale, not expedite it.
And if you’re Disney, you don’t fork over a massive licensing sum for the less valuable Pay 2 window if you’re angling to buy the joint. Double dipping may be common at Super Bowl parties, but not at the corporate executive levels of Hollywood.
Disney probably couldn’t buy Sony
Disney has become known for its splashy acquisitions during the Bob Iger era. This include Pixar ($7.4 billion), Marvel ($4 billion), Lucasfilm ($4.05 billion), and Fox ($71 billion). Sony Pictures Entertainment could fetch around $30 billion, a tall order after such a spending spree over the last 15 years, even for a company with a market cap of $315 billion. While Disney isn’t going to turn away from a competitive advantage, the company doesn’t appear to be in the market for a major addition at the moment.
More importantly, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission would have a conniption if such a move was proposed. Disney has already absorbed one major studio in Fox. Would regulatory powers really allow the company to acquire a second? Chair of the FTC Lina Khan has been vocal about her desire to crack down on monopolies. Though she’s mostly focused on big tech companies such as Amazon and Apple, a Disney power play of this magnitude would elicit backlash.
Sony is banking on its Marvel roster
The other reason Disney is unlikely to buy out Sony and acquire its roster of Marvel characters is because Sony is, uhh, using them! The studio is all in on its terribly named Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters (SPUMC).
Tom Hardy’s Venom somehow earned $856 million worldwide back in 2018, Jared Leto’s Morbius and Venom: Let There Be Carnage are due out in the near future despite COVID-related delays, and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man may very well be reclaimed exclusively for Sony’s burgeoning continuity. Plus, there’s a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel in the works.
In 2019, Sony tapped Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) to create a Marvel TV universe for the studio with a five-year, nine-figure deal. Amazon Prime Video is expected to be the on-screen home for the upcoming deluge of series.
Spider-Man: Far From Home ($1.1 billion) is Sony’s highest-grossing film worldwide of all time. The studio isn’t throwing away its most prized asset(s) in a one-off deal when it can instead leverage them for lucrative recurring revenue and value long-term. As the lone high-profile third-party film and TV provider to an industry desperate for streaming success, Sony finds itself in a unique position cushioned with payment potential.