April 3, 2018
Media giant 21st Century Fox April 3 floated the prospect The Walt Disney Co. could acquire Sky News in an independent deal to assuage British regulators in its $16 billion acquisition for the remaining 61% stake of the European satellite operator.
Disney’s acquisition of Sky’s news division would be separate from its $52 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film Corp., which includes the corporate parent’s stake in Sky, according to The Wall Street Journal. Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch owns The Journal.
British regulator Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in January issued a report critical of the merger, claiming Murdoch’s majority ownership of Sky would place too much (i.e. conservative politics) control of British media in hands of one person.
Fox contends selling Sky News to Disney (which owns ABC TV) should alleviate regulatory concerns. It has also pledged 15 years of guaranteed funding for the news division.
“The enhanced remedies we proposed to safeguard the editorial independence of Sky News addressed comprehensively and constructively the [CMA’s] provisional concerns,” Fox said in a statement.
Regardless, Fox faces competition from Comcast, which has submitted an unsolicited $31 billion bid for Sky – nearly twice that of Murdoch’s offer.
Comcast, which owns NBC Universal and DreamWorks Animation, is eying Sky for its European distribution plans. Comcast in 2004 attempted a hostile takeover of Disney, which was scuttled by the latter’s shareholders. Comcast also reportedly offered a 15% premium on Disney’s bid for 20th Century Fox, which was rejected by Murdoch over U.S. regulatory concerns.