Comcast - which owns the broadcast television network NBC and Universal Pictures — revealed on February 27 that it had made a £22.1 billion ($29.6 billion) offer for Sky, challenging an existing offer from 21st Century Fox, which is owned by the Australian media billionaire Rupert Murdoch.
The businessman — who is now married to Jerry Hall, former wife of Rolling Stones rock legend Mick Jagger, had already submitted an £18.5 billion ($25.8 billion) to buy the 61 per cent stakeholding in Sky which it does not already own.
The decision by Comcast to enter a bidding war is expected to be welcomed by the UK government who fear the offer by Fox would not be in the public interest. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)- the main regulator- already voiced its concern in January that if the deal went through, the Murdoch Family Trust would have too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda as it already owns two British newspapers, The Sun and The Times.
Our team is bringing customers closer to @TeamUSA than ever before. Live, on demand, and streaming content on Xfinity apps make the Olympic Winter Games 2018 the most mobile ever. pic.twitter.com/d3u8hkomPF— Comcast (@comcast) 20 February 2018
— Tony Tassell (@TonyTassell) 27 February 2018
The CMA is now expected to send a final report over the issue to UK Culture Secretary Matt Hancock by the beginning of May when he will then be given 30 working days to make a final decision over whether the Fox acquisition can go ahead.
Describing Sky as "an outstanding company", Brian Roberts, chief executive of Comcast, said he remained "confident" its offer would be accepted by the regulators. He added: "We would like to own the whole of Sky and we will be looking to acquire over 50% of the Sky shares".
Comcast said its bid of £12.50 a share was 16% higher than the 21st Century Fox offer. Meanwhile Sky's shares jumped more than 18% to above £13 in early trading on the London Stock Exchange.
The American cable giant believes acquiring Sky would give it immediate leading positions in pay-TV markets in the UK, Germany and Italy, as well as a presence in Spain.
Comcast already has NBC Universal film and TV assets, however, the deal "would give it a very powerful distribution pan-European network.
— Max Mason (@Maxepmason) 27 February 2018
Earlier this month, Sky won the lion's share of Premier League television rights for the football seasons between 2019 and 2022.
Comcast chief financial officer Michael Cavanagh admitted the Premier League auction was a factor, but not the main driving force behind the offer.
In December last year, Walt Disney agreed to buy the bulk of 21st Century Fox's business, including its 39% Sky stake. Now if Fox wants to c
counterbid for Sky, it will have to seek approval from Disney to fund any improved offer.
Phone hacking scandal
Mr. Murdoch's media empire was rocked in 2011 by revelations that journalists working for his tabloid newspaper The News Of The World had hacked the phones of murdered school-girl Millie Dowler. The subsequent Leveson inquiry heard testimony from politicians, celebrities and other members of the public who alleged a widespread culture of phone-hacking at Murdoch-owned publications as well as collusion with corrupt elements of the police to provide sensitive private information.
The media mogul is reported widely to have a strong affection and friendship with US president Donald Trump with whom he is said to have weekly telephone communications.