Comcast, Verizon join race for Fox assets


Other bidders also appear to be circling Fox, including mobile phone giant Verizon and possibly Inc.

Fox declined to respond to requests for comment. That probably would invite scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice, which now is poring over another blockbuster combination, AT&T's proposed $85-billion takeover of media company Time Warner Inc., which includes HBO, CNN, TBS and the Warner Bros. movie and television studio.

Disney was the first interested buyer, with Comcast and Verizon coming in about a week later.

Comcast's prelude is astonishing provided the Justice Departments resilient perspective on AT&T-Time Warner. "Time Warner-Fox or Disney-Fox", Needham & Co analyst Laura Martin told Reuters. Comcast viewed the DreamWorks Animation purchase as the most efficient way to become a force in animation. NBC already has two cable news channels, CNBC and MSNBC.

Media analyst Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis, said the speculation suggests that Fox is exploring other possibilities should that deal fall through.

Just like in a potential deal with Disney, any acquisition by Comcast would be under the same regulatory scrutiny. (Disney owns ESPN and probably planned to stay clear of the sports channels to avoid antitrust concerns). The growth of the latter, along with other technology-content companies such as Netflix and Apple has encouraged traditional media businesses to look at what can be achieved at scale.

At the same time, United States telecom and pay TV giant AT&T is seeking to close its planned $85 billion deal for media-entertainment group Time Warner amid concerns of a USA antitrust lawsuit.

"All media companies should be talking strategically given the changing ecosystem", Wells Fargo Securities analyst Marci Ryvicker wrote in a report Thursday after The Wall Street Journal first reported the talks.

Comcast, which has a very limited global presence, is focused on Fox 's worldwide assets, which represent as much as 70 percent of the financial contribution of the businesses for sale, but also wants to purchase the company's movie studio, its cable networks and its regional sports networks, according to people close to the talks.

Fox's assets range from a 50% stake in production giant Endemol Shine Group, a sprawling cable business that includes National Geographic and the FX network, and a 30% interest in US-based streamer Hulu.

Fox is now bidding to take full control of Sky in a £11.7 billion deal which has become the subject of regulatory scrutiny over Murdoch's - who also owns the Sun and Times newspapers - level of influence.