Comcast cedes fight for 21st Century Fox to Disney, will instead focus on Sky
Comcast gives up its fight for 21st Century Fox, and will instead focus on acquiring Sky to strengthen its foothold in the European market.
Disney appears to have cleared the final hurdle in its battle for Fox's entertainment assets, with Comcast ceding the fight to its bitter rival and bringing an end to the standoff between the two conglomerates. The bidding war reached its conclusion after Disney upped its offer for the company to $71 billion, surpassing Comcast's most recent $65 billion bid.
Because of the nature of the stakes involved — Disney already controls Marvel, Pixar, and LucasFilm, with this latest acquisition adding on to an already formidable content portfolio — as well as the well-documented rivalry between Comcast chief Brian Roberts and Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, the competition for the entertainment arm of Fox had been closely followed, with this most recent development quite possibly cementing Disney's position at the top of the entertainment food chain.
Roberts admitted defeat in the pursuit for the company, releasing a statement that read: "I'd like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the Murdoch family and Fox for creating such a desirable and respected company."
Iger, for his part, unsurprisingly was quite chuffed with the victory, stating that Disney was "extremely pleased with today's news, and our focus now is on completing the regulatory process and ultimately moving toward integrating our businesses."
While Disney will take control of the entertainment assets, the Murdochs will continue to hold onto their broadcast, news, and national sports programming arms that include Fox News, Fox Business, and Fox Sports. A rebranding will see the company take the name of 'New Fox' and the reins handed over to the eldest son and heir apparent Lachlan Murdoch.
Tuna Amobi at CFRA Research told the BBC that the decision by the US Department of Justice to challenge AT&T's takeover of Time Warner, despite an initial defeat in court, may have made Comcast less interested in the Fox assets. "You see shares of Comcast trading higher - there's some relief for investors here that Comcast wasn't going to overpay," he said.
Instead, the company will now focus on its efforts to acquire another one of Murdoch's assets in Sky, which Disney was reportedly in the race for as well. However, after its win, the company is likely to acquiesce and let Comcast proceed in its pursuit of Sky unrivaled.
However, Comcast will still face competition here in the form of Fox. Fox owns 39% of the pan-European satellite broadcaster and was looking to acquire the rest of the shares, bidding close to $32 billion for the same. That offer was upped by Comcast, which bid $34 billion for a majority stake.
A consolation prize, Sky will still prove to be a shrewd acquisition. It boasts of a range of exclusive deals for Premier League football — the most globally-watched football league in the world — and shows such as 'Game of Thrones,' as well as nearly 23 million direct-to-consumer relationships in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Australia, and Germany, and would give Comcast a major foothold in the European market.