Comcast may revisit its dalliance with Fox and try to outbid Disney for the media assets should AT&T prevail in its court battle with the U.S. Justice Department to buy Time Warner Inc.
That’s the insider speculation put forth in an CNBC report, detailing the media business’ currently interconnected M&A landscape—one in gridlock with the Justice Department, backed by President Donald Trump, and its seemingly aberrant decision to block AT&T/TWX.
In short, the surprising denial to grant regulatory approval for TWX—parent company to one of Trump’s least favorite news platforms, CNN—to enter into a merger with AT&T has caused media executives to unlearn every bit of regulatory precedent they thought they understood.
“For the first time, I don't understand what's possible regulatorily when it comes to horizontal integration or to vertical integration, and even whether or not behavioral remedies will be meaningful again," said Leo Hindery, managing partner of InterMedia Partners and the former CEO of both TCI and AT&T Broadband, speaking to CNBC. "There are now inconsistent strategies from company to company and people are stepping every day into each other's sandboxes.”
If, however, AT&T prevails in its quest to buy TWX and regulatory clarity is achieved, look for Comcast to aggressively try to counter rival telecom AT&T by outbidding the Walt Disney Company for Fox assets that Disney agreed to acquire last month.
For $54.2 billion stock, Disney will take ownership of film businesses including Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000, along with the television creative units,Twentieth Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox 21.
Disney will also acquire FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, Fox Sports Regional Networks, Fox Networks Group International, Star India and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Sky plc, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group.
"Many of our peers are re-evaluating their strategies," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call two weeks ago. "So along the way, there may be opportunities for us to create more value for our shareholders, like we did with NBCUniversal. In this respect, it shouldn't be a surprise that we study every situation that comes along."