Murdoch/Disney lose out to Comcast for Sky but new owner still has to face Amazon and Netflix

US cable and telecoms giant Comcast’s £30bn “win” of Sky against competition from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox is unlikely to have many major short term effects although Comcast has just acquired the most expensive customers in history (Sky has 23 million of them).

Murdoch, whose Fox holds 39 per cent of Sky, was leaving the field anyway as he’s agreed to sell most of his film and TV assets, including the stake in Sky, to Disney in which he become a substantial shareholder. Disney now has to decide if it wants to accept the bid or enter a further round of horse trading with Comcast. Disney may be pleased that it lost the bid as Sky was never its main priority.

Operationally Sky is hardly likely to change although hundreds of Sky managers and staff will have cashed in mightily via shares and share options and many may feel – as is common in such cases – that they’ll leave with their money instead of waiting for the inevitable squeeze as Comcast tries to get its money back.

Has Comcast dramatically overpaid? Sky is highly profitable and still adding customers although those customers may not be as loyal as Comcast thinks, open to offers from the likes of Amazon and Netflix. If Amazon dramatically boosted its investment in sport, especially football, as it well might then Comcast/Sky could be in trouble.

As for 87-year old Murdoch, who made Sky possible by merging his nascent satellite operation with the floundering British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) he still has the influential if divisive Fox News in the US and his newspaper and publishing empire News Corp. Even Murdoch can’t go on for ever (unless he knows something we don’t) but he probably won’t be leaving the stage and limelight just yet.

(Rather than show you yet another picture of the now venerable Murdoch here’s young Rupert back in 1967, when his empire was Australian.)

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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