Comcast talking to Fox about a deal, source says
NEW YORK (AP) — Comcast is in discussions with 21st Century Fox about buying its movie studio, some cable channels and its international arms, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. This person wouldn’t discuss the matter publicly.
The conversations are at a very early stage, and there’s no guarantee that a deal would be finalized, this person said Thursday.
Comcast is interested in the same Fox assets that, according to reports last week, Disney had previously looked at, this person said. Those would include European broadcaster Sky and Star India, the National Geographic and FX cable channels and the company’s film studio. Fox owns 39 percent of Sky and wants to buy the rest of it, but it has run into problems with U.K. regulators, in part over concerns about the sexual harassment scandals at Fox News.
The Wall Street Journal and CNBC earlier reported on Comcast’s interest in Fox.
If such a deal took place, it would leave Fox with its Fox News channel, sports channels, the Fox broadcast network and several TV stations.
Selling the entertainment business would be a good deal for Fox, said MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson. “Maybe, just maybe, the company is acknowledging that the outlook for film has changed from an ok business to a bad business for everyone not owning a massive stable of global franchises,” he wrote in a note last week.
The company may have realized it has a “better edge” in sports and news, he said, and that the investment needed to build out a streaming service, like Disney is doing , may be too much for Fox.
Other companies may also want the Fox assets. A person close to the matter, who wouldn’t speak publicly, said Verizon is not in active discussions with Fox, but that Verizon might be interested in some parts of Fox’s business.
U.S. cable and telecom companies have been buying up media assets and launching advertising businesses in the past several years. Comcast, the country’s largest cable company, finished buying NBCUniversal’s cable channels and movie studio in 2013 and added Dreamworks Animation in 2016.
Last year, AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner, the owner of the Warner Bros. movie studio and networks including CNN and HBO, for $85 billion. Regulators have taken a tougher-than-expected stance on that deal and have yet to clear it.
Reports that the Murdoch family could sell parts of its empire came as a surprise last week. The company has previously focused on building its business, and even offered to buy Time Warner in 2014. Fox was rebuffed.