After weeks of signaling it would do so, Comcast is making a play at 21st Century Fox’s TV and film assets. Hoping to derail Disney’s pending, stock-based $52.4 billion deal with Fox, Comcast is stepping in with a higher, all-cash offer for $35 per share, which totals approximately $65 billion. The move is likely to trigger an intense battle between Comcast and Disney as 21st Century Fox and the Murdoch empire weigh which is the better option. Fox’s board of directors is scheduled to vote on the Disney deal on July 10th.
“Time is of the essence for your consideration of our proposal,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts wrote in a letter to Fox’s board. Comcast has filed a statement with the SEC in opposition to the Disney/21st Century Fox merger. On Wednesday evening, Fox said “21st Century Fox’s board, in consultation with its outside legal counsel and financial advisors, will carefully review and consider the Comcast proposal.” It hasn’t yet made a decision on whether it will postpone the July 10th meeting.
Comcast had reportedly been waiting to see whether AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner would be approved — despite a high-profile attempt by the Justice Department to block it over antitrust concerns — before formally making its offer for the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets. A judge ruled in AT&T’s favor on June 12th without requiring it or Time Warner to divest any of their holdings. That certainly had to have made Comcast’s executives and legal team feel much better about their prospects of success. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was reportedly tuned into CNBC at the company’s headquarters to see the outcome live, according to The New York Times.
Comcast says it is “highly confident that our proposed transaction will obtain all necessary regulatory approvals in a timely manner and that our transaction is as or more likely to receive regulatory approval than the Disney transaction.” Comcast is “open to working with antitrust authorities” to change the structure of the deal in order to gain approval, according to a slide deck the company provided about its proposal.
Comcast’s bid is for the movie studio 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Television, Fox-owned cable networks (including FX and National Geographic), several regional sports TV networks, and the company’s stakes in international networks Sky and Star TV. It also includes a 30 percent stake in the Hulu streaming service. Just like the Disney deal, Comcast would become a majority owner of Hulu if its proposed acquisition is approved. There will undoubtedly be concerns about one of America’s leading ISPs owning — and potentially prioritizing — services built around that vast collection of content.