As if the problems facing the bid by the Murdoch mafiosi to gain control of the 61% of Sky that they do not yet own were not significant enough, they have now been well and truly trumped by one of the real big boys in the global media firmament. And what has been reported today not only puts Rupert Murdoch’s dreams to bed for good, it casts doubt on the future of his UK print media operations as well.
The BBC has reported that “US cable TV giant Comcast has made a formal £22bn bid for Sky, which values the broadcaster at £12.50 a share … The move threatens Rupert Murdoch's attempts to take full control of the pay-TV group … His 21st Century Fox had already agreed to buy the 61% of Sky it does not already own, an offer worth about £19bn”. Rupe’s dream of a cut-price post-referendum bid is over.
Worse, as Sky News has noted, “Sky responded by saying it was withdrawing its recommendation of the Fox deal - paving the way for bids to be raised”. Moreover, “Comcast said its bid came with a series of legally binding commitments on Sky ownership and UK investment … It included a 10-year commitment to Sky News - its future proving one of the sticking points of the Fox bid which is still being considered by regulators over concerns it would hand the Murdoch Family Trust too much influence over UK media”.
And there is a further problem, as the Guardian has observed: “Murdoch agreed a $66bn (£47bn) sale to rival Disney which is being scrutinised by US regulators”. Disney, “which has called Sky a ‘crown jewel’, is keen on the broadcaster’s streaming and on-demand service, Sky Now, as it seeks to compete with Netflix”.
What will Disney do now? One analyst has concluded “In reality, this is likely to be about what Disney is willing to pay for Sky as Disney will be the buyer of the Fox assets … We think that Fox/Disney will counter-bid … it would give Disney the number one pay-TV operator in the UK, Germany and Italy”. But the Guardian has added that “analysts believe Murdoch is essentially out of the picture”. It is no longer his call.
Plus the feeling among business watchers is that bids are going to have to go a lot higher before there is a winner: Comcast has valued Sky at £22 billion, but that mark may rise to, or even above, £27 billion. The whole business will stick in Murdoch’s craw: Comcast is the ultimate owner of US Cable News outfit MSNBC, which is getting very close to matching Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) in ratings of late.
Just think, the owner of the Rotten Leftie (tm) competition in the USA has just killed the takeover dreams of Creepy Uncle Rupe stone dead. All those years he had to spend building up Sky, all the risks he had to take, how close he came to the whole shebang bankrupting him. And now the same free market that Rupert Murdoch has so steadfastly championed for so long is coming back to bite him and snatch away his prize.
Even if Disney approves a counter-bid, he will know he is not a big enough media player to sit at the table with the big boys. He has to take instructions from someone else in order to stay in the game. Yes, there goes Rupert Murdoch, on his way … out.