Comcast acted swiftly after Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox announced Wednesday morning that it would pay the equivalent of $32.5 billion for Sky, topping Comcast’s $31 billion offer for a business that many believe could be facing modest future growth in its core satellite-television business as Europeans look more to streaming entertainment.
Sky, based in the United Kingdom, has more than 20 million subscribers in several European countries, in addition to a content arm that includes Sky News.
The bidding for Sky and the broader protracted fight over ownership of Murdoch’s entertainment assets between Comcast and the Walt Disney Co. seems no closer to a conclusion after Wednesday actions, which were surprising only in that both Comcast and Fox seemed eager to get the fight on.
“It’s by no means a knockout bid,” Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst with New Street Research, said Wednesday evening of Comcast’s offer. “It’s above Fox’s bid, but [Comcast] did not go high enough so that it could thwart Fox coming back.”
Chaplin and other analysts are hoping that Fox, Comcast, and Disney can back off a bidding war over Murdoch’s entertainment empire, with Comcast taking Sky for $34 billion and Disney taking the rest of the Fox entertainment assets for $71 billion. Those assets include Fox’s Hollywood studios, content library, cable channels, international networks, and 39 percent stake in Sky.
The Wall Street Journal reports the bidding in the U.K. was a main topic a world away amid the desert hills of Sun Valley, Idaho, where media and technology’s elite gathered for the annual Allen & Co. conference. Media executives spent much of the conference’s first full day trying to decipher whether Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts intends to continue the chase for the Fox assets.
If Comcast winds up only acquiring Sky, the company believes it would make strategic sense. “It’s basically a mini-Comcast-NBCU,” the person familiar with the matter said, referring to Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal, which created a mix of distribution and content assets like those that Sky owns.