Comcast challenges Murdoch with offer to buy Sky

It's obviously a huge gauntlet that's been laid down to the Murdochs.

The separate Fox-Sky deal has been subject to a gantlet of regulatory reviews in Britain.

Representatives of Fox and Disney couldn't immediately be reached for comment early Tuesday.

"It's obviously a huge gauntlet that's been laid down to the Murdochs in relation to their pre-existing offer", said Alice Enders, head of research at Enders Analysis. The 86-year-old mogul therefore has two options: revise the terms of the Disney sale to exclude Sky, or enter into a bidding war with Roberts. Sky was seen as a particularly attractive asset in the package - a way Disney could grow its overseas footprint. The deal would value Sky at £22.1 billion ($30.9 billion). If Fox was to raise its bid - a move that shareholders would expect given Sky's soaring share price - it would likely need to discuss the structure of any new bid with Disney.

The younger Roberts became Comcast's president in 1990 and CEO in 2002, having spent his whole career at the company. Sky shares, meanwhile, were trading 20.68% higher at £1,333.50 around 1100 BST.

Comcast's chief executive says he is confident the firm will get the necessary regulatory approvals. To add, the company says that it's "a significant premium to the 21CF price now recommended", and that "We would like to own the whole of Sky and we will be looking to acquire over 50% of the Sky shares".

Neither Fox nor Disney will want to get into a bidding war, "especially given the [regulatory] complications surrounding Sky News", they said. Comcast was considering making another bid for Fox assets this month, according to a person familiar.

Comcast, which owns the Downton Abbey brand, is the biggest U.S. cable TV firm.

One of the competition watchdog's main objections to Murdoch's taking full control of Sky was the fact he would be able to exert pressure on Sky News' editorial line.

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"We believe the combination of the business presents the opportunity to distribute Sky an NBCUniversal content in the United States and across Europe", Cavanagh said. Roberts' interest in the broadcaster firmed up after an hour-long demonstration of its flagship Sky Q TV product during a trip at the end of past year.

The most recent round of big deals shows pressure that traditional cable TV networks are feeling as customers have been ending subscriptions to go with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.

The US cable company has offered $31 billion for Sky, or £12.50 per share - a 16% increase on Murdoch's bid of £10.75 per share.

'Disney chief executive [Bob Iger] has described Sky as the "crown jewel" asset among the Fox operations he is seeking to acquire.

It also pits Roberts against Disney's Iger, a long time rival after Comcast tried to buy Disney for US$54 billion in 2004.

Comcast said it had not yet engaged with Sky over the proposal and almost 90 minutes after the statement came out, Sky was yet to respond.

The deal is about the size of Comcast's transaction for NBCUniversal in 2011 and would rip Sky out of the hands of Murdoch, whose 21st Century Fox has made a competing bid to purchase the share of Sky that he doesn't already own.

But the takeover is dogged by concerns over the media tycoon's political influence in Britain.

The UK's competition watchdog said in January that the deal would be "against the public interest", giving the Murdoch family what it considered too much control over UK media. MFT news outlets are now consumed by almost a third of the UK's population across TV, radio, online and newspapers, according to the BBC. In December, hedge fund manager Crispin Odey argued that Sky was being sold too cheaply.

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