21st Century Fox said the Walt Disney Company is interested in buying U.K.-based Sky News regardless of whether its $52.4 billion deal for certain Fox assets goes through.
Disney’s intent was revealed amid new remedies Fox submitted to the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) as the company seeks to fully acquire Sky for $25.8 billion.
Under the deal described by Fox, Disney would buy Sky News and add it to its existing channel portfolio. But as Disney’s deal for Fox is currently structured, Disney would get Fox’s current 39% ownership stake in Sky, which would include Sky News.
Fox is continuing to work with U.K. regulators on finalizing the deal for Sky while also fending off a rival bid from Comcast. In February, Comcast jumped in with a competing $31 billion bid for Sky after missing out on the deal for Fox’s entertainment assets that went to Disney.
“We think Sky is an outstanding company,” said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts in a statement at the time. “It has 23 million customers and leading positions in the U.K., Italy and Germany. Sky has been a consistent innovator in its use of technology to deliver a fantastic viewing experience and has a proud record of investment in news and programming. It has great people and a very strong and capable management team.”
“We intend to maintain and enhance Sky's business. Adding Sky to the Comcast family of businesses will increase our international revenues from 9% to 25%,” Roberts added. “We believe that there are significant opportunities for growth by combining these businesses.”
Besides the potential Disney deal for Sky News, Fox has also proposed “ring-fencing” remedies which would affect the legal separation between Sky News and the rest of Sky, establishing Sky News as a distinct company within the Sky Group, with its own fully independent board and under the management control of the head of Sky News.
“We have worked diligently with the CMA throughout its extensive review. In fact, we believe that the enhanced firewall remedies we proposed to safeguard the editorial independence of Sky News addressed comprehensively and constructively the CMA’s provisional concerns. These enhanced remedies went above and beyond what Ofcom, the expert, independent regulator on U.K. broadcasting, had stated would mitigate concerns around media plurality,” Fox said in a statement.
“We are aware that a group of politicians that is opposed to the transaction is seeking to influence the CMA and is making a number of unsupported and fanciful assertions. If the CMA were to accept at face value these assertions and be dissatisfied with enhanced remedies that are a direct and reasonable response to concerns it had raised with us, we believe that this would compromise the integrity of a system which is supposed to be objective, evidenced-based and grounded on the application of established legal principles," Fox said.