Comcast said it has given up its bid to acquire 21st Century Fox, leaving the Walt Disney Company clear to home in on an expected acquisition of the media giant.
“When a set of assets like Fox’s becomes available, it is our responsibility to evaluate if there is a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders,” Comcast said in a statement. “That is what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”
Fox includes not only the Fox broadcast network, but also cable channels Fox News, FX and Fox Sports 1, among others. Comcast was said to be especially covetous of European pay TV operator Sky Plc. Indeed, a purchase of the Fox conglomerate would have rendered Comcast a truly international company, with India’s Star network bundled into the asset, as well.
However, the Murdoch Family—the clan of far-right Australians run by 87-year-old patriarch Rupert who control Fox—are reportedly more enamored with a deal that includes lots of Disney stock. This, even though Disney share prices have felt the weight of ESPN’s struggles in recent quarters.
More than anything, perhaps, the Murdochs are reportedly convinced that a Disney acquisition has a better chance to clear U.S. regulatory hurdles. Comcast had to make major concessions to the federal government in 2011 to clear its purchase of NBCUniversal, its last bid for a major acquisition, Time Warner Cable, was rejected outright in 2015.
As for Disney and Fox, negotiations are continuing, Reuters said, with a deal expected to come as soon as this month. On Monday, it was reported that Fox has already alerted its employees of the possible (nay, probable) purchase.