Done deal at Disney, but questions arise at AT&T

Disney owes parents and kids an answer | The Walt Disney Company completed its buy-out of Twentieth Century Fox this week. The $71.3 billion deal includes the Fox and Fox Searchlight film labels. Many top Fox film executives crossed over to Disney. And Disney — which has the toughest smokefree policy in Hollywood — also won Fox’s enormous library of movies with smoking. 

In 2018 and again in early 2019, socially-responsible investors challenged Disney to commit to safely market these films on Hulu or its upcoming streaming service, Disney+. They also want Disney to pledge that future kid-rated Fox films will stick to the same smokefree policy followed by Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucas-labeled films.

Fox itself has put Disney on the hot spot. Smoking exploded in Fox's 2018 films, after its deal with Disney was in the works. Fox kid-rated films with smoking tripled between 2017 and 2018, as did kid-rated tobacco incidents. Fox’s kid-rated films have already delivered nearly five billion tobacco impressions, twenty times the audience exposure in 2017.

Disney will push Fox's latest smoke-filled films online in a few months. It owes its shareholders and America's families an answer.

Who really won this deal, Disney or Fox — the movie business or Big Tobacco?

The last time Warner Bros. lacked a leader... | The year’s other big media take-over — AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner — is also nearly complete. But Warner Bros.’ powerful CEO exited the company on Monday, shadowed by an internal investigation into improper conduct. 

John Stankey, who heads AT&T's WarnerMedia, has appointed a troika of executives as interim leaders at Warner Bros. global film and television operations.

WarnerMedia has adopted the same tobacco depiction policy observed by Time Warner. But executive turmoil can cause studios to slacken enforcement of their tobacco policies, which rely on cues from the top. 

From 2011 to 2013, the last time leadership at Warner Bros. was up in the air, smoking skyrocketed in the studio’s kid-rated films, then fell back when the dust settled. (See Time Warner's tobacco record here.)

Like Disney, WarnerMedia plans to launch a Netflix-fighting streaming service to exploit Warner Bros.’ tobacco-contaminated film library and distribute new features and TV series.


To learn more about AT&T, Disney, and the business risk to children's health, check out this Smokefree Movies info package.