Com­cast chal­lenges Dis­ney with bid for Fox

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - BUSINESS - BY MAE AN­DER­SON

Com­cast made a $65 bil­lion bid Wed­nes­day for Fox’s en­ter­tain­ment busi­nesses, set­ting up a bat­tle with Dis­ney to be­come the next mega-me­dia com­pany.

The bid comes just a day after a fed­eral judge cleared AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner and re­jected the govern­ment’s ar­gu­ment that it would hurt com­pe­ti­tion in cable and satel­lite TV and jack up costs to con­sumers for stream­ing TV and movies. The rul­ing sig­naled that Com­cast could win reg­u­la­tory ap­proval, too; its bid for Fox shares sim­i­lar­i­ties with the AT&T-Time Warner deal.

Com­cast says its cash bid is 19 per­cent higher than the value of Dis­ney’s of­fer as of Wed­nes­day. The Wall Street Jour­nal and others re­ported ear­lier that Com­cast had lined up $60 bil­lion in cash to chal­lenge Dis­ney for me­dia mogul Ru­pert Mur­doch’s com­pany.

Dis­ney’s of­fer was for $52.5 bil­lion when it was made in De­cem­ber, though the fi­nal value will de­pend on the stock price at the clos­ing.

The bat­tle for Twenty-First Cen­tury Fox comes as tra­di­tional en­ter­tain­ment com­pa­nies try to amass more con­tent to com­pete bet­ter with tech com­pa­nies such as Ama­zon and Net­flix for view­ers’ attention and dol­lars.

If the Com­cast bid suc­ceeds, a ma­jor cable dis­trib­u­tor would con­trol even more chan­nels on its lineup and those of its ri­vals. That could lead to higher cable bills or make it more dif­fi­cult for on­line al­ter­na­tives to emerge, though there is not yet ev­i­dence of ei­ther hap­pen­ing fol­low­ing other merg­ers.

Con­tent is be­com­ing more im­por­tant as ways to de­liver con­tent pro­lif­er­ate. Cable com­pa­nies like Com­cast are no longer com­pet­ing only with satel­lite al­ter­na­tives such as DirecTV, but also stand-alone ser­vices such as Net­flix and cable-like on­line bun­dles through Sony, AT&T and others.

Dis­ney al­ready started its own sports stream­ing ser­vice and plans an en­ter­tain­ment-fo­cused one late next year fea­tur­ing movies and shows from its own stu­dios, which in­clude Mar­vel, Pixar and “Star Wars” creator Lu­cas­film. Com­cast, mean­while, has been lead­ing the way in mar­ry­ing pipes with the en­ter­tain­ment that flows through them. It bought NBCUniver­sal’s cable chan­nels and movie stu­dio in 2013 and added Dream­works An­i­ma­tion in 2016.

Whichever com­pany pre­vails would also con­trol Fox’s cable and in­ter­na­tional TV busi­nesses.

The Fox tele­vi­sion net­work and some cable chan­nels, in­clud­ing Fox News and Fox Busi­ness Net­work, would stay with Mur­doch’s fam­ily un­der ei­ther deal, as would the news­pa­per and book busi­nesses un­der a sep­a­rate com­pany, News Corp.

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