Fear and uncertainty are sinking in on the 20th Century Fox lot now that Hollywood has had a night to sleep on Disney’s $52.4-billion bid to acquire the media company’s prime assets.
Employees at 20th Century’s film and TV studios are wracked with anxiety over the prospect of layoffs — which analysts said are a forgone conclusion — according to nearly a dozen staffers and collaborators TheWrap spoke with on Thursday and Friday. Some factions of the business have gone radio silent to partners and vendors in response to the gravity of the situation.
For the Fox businesses that will remain under Murdoch family oversight, there’s less worry about downsizing because their spinoff venture will not face redundancy with existing Disney employees, insiders in the broadcast and sports divisions said. But they face the small matter of a massive content void left by the two studios.
“Management has been handling this with as much detail as they can,” one high-level Fox executive who works across platforms said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Much is unknown. People have been assured that even if they don’t end up with a role, they will be well taken care of,” added the executive, who also applauded the display of “human compassion.”
Still, many are “silently grieving,” another knowledgable insider said. While entertainment executives can be painted as lofty and inaccessible, another Fox executive said the party line inside the company this week was to show kindness to the anxious and afraid.
Fox Film Chairman and CEO Stacey Snider cancelled her planned appearance at the glittery Washington D.C. premiere of Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” on Thursday, instead choosing to stay and comfort her staff.
On top of arranged meetings with a team that included President of Production Emma Watts and distribution chief Chris Aronson, Snider left her door open all day spoke with worried employees, an insider said.
She underscored the studio would operate normally and with “swagger,” TheWrap previously reported, until the Disney oversight begins, the individual said.
Some non-creative departments in the film and TV divisions have gone quiet to outside partners, production entities and clients.
“Nobody is selling an agenda of fake optimism, it’s all pretty grounded and honest. But we’re still doing what we’re doing,” a top creative shotcaller said.
“Some people are radio silent and scared sh–less,” one media company CFO told TheWrap of communication with Fox. “People are nervous from the top down, but I think we’re all anxious to shake the trees and see where this ends up. Who wants to wait in agony?”
In announcing the deal, Disney said it expects at least “$2 billion in cost savings” derived from “efficiencies realized through the combination of businesses,” without elaborating on what that means.
But many analysts say the savings will likely come from job cuts. “There will be thousands of jobs lost,” BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield told CNN. “It is hard to see how any meaningful job creation will come out of this.”
One development executive with several projects set up at Fox Film and TV said there “will probably be a lot of people out on the street,” and said the deal was all people could talk about this week at power lunch haunts like Beverly Hills’ The Grill on the Alley.
While one person suggested “redundancy’ would be the biggest Hollywood buzzword in 2018, the majority of Fox insiders said they were instead focused on resilience.
“A few departments had their holiday parties on Friday, and they’ve been festive,” another lot insider said. Both companies said transition is expected to take from 12 to 18 months to complete, so no imminent action is expected.
There is no quantifying the ripple effect of Disney swallowing Fox’s film and TV studios, though one poignant takeaway emerges among too many questions: Many feel the acquisition solidifies Disney as the “most powerful company” in Hollywood.
Tony Maglio contributed to this report.