February 12, 2018
Comcast reportedly is considering revising a previous bid for select assets of 21st Century Fox. The original $60+ billion bid was turned down in favor of Disney’s $52.4 billion offer largely due to antitrust concerns, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Rupert Murdoch, chairman of 21st Century Fox, owns WSJ parent News Corp.
While both companies’ bids for 20th Century Fox film and TV assets — which include Fox 2000, Fox Searchlight, majority control of Hulu, Star India, Sky, FX, Fox’s regional sports networks, including YES and $13.7 billion in Fox debt — were similar, Fox chose Disney’s lower offer due to regulatory concerns.
Indeed, when Comcast — one of the nation’s largest cable operators — acquired NBC Universal, it went to great lengths to assuage regulators’ concerns about unfair competition and monopolies. The company thus agreed to be a silent partner in Hulu, among other arbitration conditions that expired in January.
In acquiring Fox, Comcast seeks additional cable TV networks, in addition to content creation. It’s a strategy AT&T is following acquiring Time Warner. That deal’s future remains unknown and is now under litigation from the Department of Justice, citing antitrust issues.
Separately, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in December urged to the DOJ to re-investigate Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal following the end of government-imposed conditions.
“If your investigations determine that the Comcast-NBC acquisition will produce anticompetitive effects, even if the merger conditions are retained, you may need to reconsider separating Comcast and NBC universal in order to fully restore competition,” Blumenthal wrote Makan Delrahim, head of antitrust at DOJ.
Meanwhile, Fox has issues of its own. The company’s $16.3 billion attempt to acquire the remaining 61% stake in Sky — Europe’s largest satellite TV operator — was thrown a roadblock when the U.K. watchdog Competition and Markets Authority ruled the deal was not in the public interest.
“Media plurality goes to the heart of our democratic process,” Anne Lambert, chair of the CMA, said in a statement. “It is very important that no group or individual should have too much control of our news media or too much power to affect the political agenda.”
Fox, in a statement, said it would “continue to engage with the CMA ahead of the publication of the final report in May.” Negotiations reportedly could include divesting Sky News from Murdoch’s influence.