Could Apple Buy Sony? What Does This Mean For Marvel’s Spider-Man?

Apple, the $1 trillion Silicon Valley giant could purchase Sony in 2019 if a reputed publication’s prediction comes to pass. In its top predictions for 2019, Variety speculates that Apple might want to buy Sony in 2019 making this a hot story they’ll be chasing, among other things. No sooner did the report do the rounds than speculation has begun running rampant on the state of Marvel’s most popular comic character Spider-Man. And if the internet is to be believed, the rights could revert back to Marvel.

Now that’s all too much to take in so let’s go in slowly. Founded by Steve Jobs, Apple is largely into the consumer technology business and has introduced a slew of new cool devices from the Apple Computer and Mac of the early days to the more recent iDevices of the present era, including the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Sony on the other hand, is a tech company in its own right, largely known for its innovations in music and camera, introducing a whole new generation to music with the Walkman. The Walkman was the consumer music device of choice until the iPod came along and killed it overnight.

Upon a first look then, Apple purchasing Sony might have a technological angle to it. Well, not so much. For as much as Sony’s image sensors might be useful for the iPhone’s cameras, there’s a much more sinister strategy at play here.

As it turns out, Sony has a film division as well, Sony Pictures, which has produced several popular films and TV Shows including the likes of Men in BlackBreaking Bad and the immensely popular Spider-Man series of films, whose rights they snapped from Marvel back in the 90s. Apple’s interest in Sony could have more to do with its film division than its tech, for the simple reason that Apple has been wanting to try its hand at streaming for a while now. In fact, Apple committed to spending $1 billion in 2018 on original content that saw shows like Planet of the Apps and Carpool produced; neither were outright turds but didn’t gain any traction as well.

Purchasing Sony gives Apple a slew of readymade content which it can use to strengthen its position in the streaming services market. And with last year’s two big acquisitions of Warner Bros. by AT&T and 20th Century Fox by Disney, it wouldn’t be an unthinkable strategy either, nor would it be opposed or held back by courts seeing as it would be valued lesser than either of those deals. It would also be a relatively modest investment for Apple who is reportedly sitting on over $200 billion of cash reserves while recently reaching a valuation of $1 billion before dropping down and ceding that to the likes of Microsoft and Amazon.

It’s worth noting however that this isn’t the first time a potential Apple-Sony deal has been brought up. There was a similar rumor doing the rounds in March this year, with whispers being heard as early as October last year. It’s quite possible deals of this nature and scale take a long while to solidify. Nevertheless, Sony has refuted the rumors several times, trying to maintain its committment to producing films very much on its own terms.

For Marvel fans though, it all boils down to that billion dollar question: If Apple bought Sony, who owns Spider-Man? Well, it turns out the answer lies buried deep within the contract terms and conditions but has been uncovered.

Twitter user Iwan Roberts posted a snapshot from the deal regulations from an old Sony website that explicitly stated that if the owner of Marvel characters, Sony’s child company Columbia Pictures, were to be acquired by any other company, the rights to Spider-Man were revert back to Marvel. Here’s the statement under consideration:

If the company currently known as COLUMBIA PICTURES INDUSTRIES, Inc. is to be acquired by another company other than SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMANET Inc. [via THE CANNON GROUP, Inc., 21st CENTURY FILM CORPORATION and CAROLCO PICTURES, Inc.] the assets under the [MARVEL] Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Thor, Hero for Hire, etc. franchises will revert back to MARVEL COMICS [via MARVEL ENTERPRISES, LLC, TOY BIZ, Inc. and MARVEL WORLDWIDE Inc.]

Here’s the said tweet in context:

However Iwan is quick to point out that the website itself may very well be fake as another document doing the rounds doesn’t have any such clause explicitly baked into it.

So, even though it looks likely that the rights to Spider-Man would revert back to Marvel, it may very well not be the case. It’s possible part of the reason Apple is interested in Sony is how much the Spider-Man movies have been earning; Venom released in October this year was a box-office breakout in similar vein to DC’s Suicide Squad, with over $800 million globally and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is getting rave reviews from critics all over. With no Spider-Man attached to Sony in the event of an acquisition, the value proposition dilutes for Apple.

Regardless of what happens, this will surely be an interesting story to follow and keep a close tab on in the months to come.