Comcast makes bid for Sky undercutting Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox deal
US broadcasting giant Comcast is gunning to buy Sky, outbidding Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox bid to buy the remaining 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own. Comcast’s offer usurps the £18.5bn deal agreed upon between Sky and 21st Century Fox by 16%, offering up £12.50 per share.
While a Comcast bid would take Sky away from being an entirely British-owned company, it would save it from the clutches of the Murdoch empire. A buyout from 21st Century Fox was not met with favourable response from UK citizens as Rupert Murdoch already has a grip on UK print outlets The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times along with owning the controversial Fox News network in the US.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority also doesn’t believe a deal between Sky and Fox is in the public interest. It cited concerns around the Murdoch Family Trust having too much influence over public opinion and political agenda.
A Comcast takeover, however, would be relatively clean in comparison. The US cable provider is the nation’s biggest cable TV firm and owns NBC and Universal Pictures. Its chief executive Brian Roberts has also made it known that Comcast has no grand plans to twist Sky into something for its own political gains, claiming that Sky News was “an invaluable part of the UK news landscape”, and fully intends to “maintain Sky News’ existing brand and culture.”
Roberts also stated Comcast “would like to own the whole of Sky and will be looking to acquire over 50% of the Sky shares”.
If Comcast’s offer is accepted over 21st Century Fox’s, this could be a win for activists who oppose Murdoch’s takeover bid for Sky. However, the fight isn’t as straightforward as it once was when Fox put its initial bid in. In December, Walt Disney agreed to buy a major chunk of 21st Century Fox’s properties – including its 39% share of Sky.
If that deal goes through, the Murdoch family’s UK influence would diminish, meaning it has a fairer chance of snapping up Sky. To further complicate matters, since the Competition and Markets Authority made its reservations known around the buyout, 21st Century Fox has tried to make itself more attractive. Not only has it stated that it would keep Sky News running for at least 10 years, but it would run it with a fully independent board for the channel.
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Protestors outside Comcast offices over Net Neutrality laws
Comcast isn’t quite the white knight some Murdoch naysayers may want as it certainly also has its fair share of bad news surrounding it. Not only was it a big advocate for repealing Net Neutrality in the US after a history of throttling rival services, it’s also currently in dispute with Netflix around bandwidth allocation. Giving Comcast control of services like Sky Player and Now TV could lead to some unfavourable throttling if you fancy watching Netflix via Sky Broadband instead of its preferred services.
Comcast also has a history of offering below-par customer service, meaning the same cracks could begin to show in the UK if they became the owners of Sky.
Interestingly, Roberts has stated that he wouldn’t mind if Comcast co-owned Sky with either Fox or Disney, he just wants to ensure that Comcast holds the majority stake.