Speculation and rumour are rife in the world of media and entertainment, as Rupert Murdoch controls the destiny of warring US giants Comcast and Walt Disney Co.
Last week UK Culture Secretary Matt Hancock delivered the UK government’s long-awaited verdict to allow Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox to acquire European digital broadcaster Sky Plc for £12 billion.
Hancock and DCMS have placed a fundamental requirement that Murdoch must divest all equity in Sky News, in order for Fox to process the transaction and for the deal to meet UK media regulatory demands.
Since 2015, Murdoch has tried to acquire Sky assets outright, seeking for Fox to purchase the remaining 61% stake, it is yet to own in the FTSE100 firm.
However, DCMS’ decision to allow a Fox-Sky combination, will likely escalate the ongoing multi-national battle between US media giants Disney and Comcast who are desperate to acquire 21st Century Fox assets.
Entering 2018, Murdoch had agreed to sell all Fox properties excluding the Fox cable news network to Disney Co for $53 billion cash and new shares deal. The Australian tycoon was reported to want to return to being a newsman.
Presenting the landmark deal, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that his firm would combine with Fox to create the world’s biggest media operator, combining Walt Disney entertainment properties with 21st Century Fox sports assets and movie franchises.
Nevertheless, with Disney’s $53 billion bid under US regulatory review, last May, Brain L Roberts Chairman of Comcast stated that the telecoms and media giant would put forward a $60 billion cash deal seeking to acquire all Fox assets (entertainment, media, news and sports).
Valued at $200 billion, Comcast the US’ largest cable operator and internet services provider seeks to build up its international profile securing Fox’s European (Sky) and Asian (Star Sports) media properties.
Murdoch and Roberts are long-term opponents, who have clashed several times in relation to NBC and Universal Studio properties, and Comcast’s failed 2015 merger with Time Warner.
However, US news sources report that Murdoch may put his rivalry with Roberts aside, in order to secure a bigger cash generating deal for Fox investors through Comcast.
As for Disney, media analyst believe that Iger will move to restructure Disney’s original Fox deal, as the company seeks to build an entertainment platform capable of competing against the imminent threat of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple who are moving-in on Disney’s territory.
As a media mogul, Murdoch has had a turbulent relationship with all UK governments. However, DCMS judgement to allow a Sky sell-off will likely have handed Murdoch his biggest career win…