STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

The billionaire egos behind Comcast's bid for Sky

Is Brian Roberts getting his revenge?The Comcast CEO just announced a ...

Posted: Feb 28, 2018 10:17 AM
Updated: Feb 28, 2018 10:17 AM

Is Brian Roberts getting his revenge?

The Comcast CEO just announced a $31 billion bid for the British broadcaster Sky, directly challenging two of his fellow media moguls, Rupert Murdoch and Bob Iger.

The move comes just a few months after Murdoch spurned Roberts' offer to buy most of 21st Century Fox. A Comcast-Fox combination was intriguing. But Murdoch struck a deal with Disney's Iger instead.

Now Roberts is back with an offer for Sky that can't be ignored.

Comcast, of course, says this isn't personal at all. The company is telling investors that the deal will "extend Comcast's international footprint" and fuel "growth investments."

And all of that makes sense on paper. But think about the players here. These men, who have known each other for decades, are vying for global growth opportunities. Some billionaire-size egos are involved.

These media CEOs are in a constant state of competition, as measured by market cap, network ratings, number of vacation homes and other metrics.

And Roberts' all-cash offer for Sky complicates both Murdoch's pending takeover of Sky and Iger's pursuit of the Fox assets.

Sky is attractive because it beams valuable TV programming to tens of millions of viewers in the UK, Germany, Italy and other countries.

Related: Why Disney and Comcast both want to buy the UK broadcaster

Another media chief, David Zaslav of Discovery Communications, said Tuesday that "Comcast and Brian coming in, and making a move on Sky," is part of an industry-wide effort to grow outside the U.S.

"There's going to be a race to try and be more global," Zaslav told investors.

That's why a bidding war for Sky is likely.

Comcast's sweet revenge?

Roberts' low-key nature belies his empire-building ambitions. In 2004, he made a failed bid to buy Disney. Five years later he launched a successful takeover of NBCUniversal.

Comcast, through NBC, is among the biggest media companies in the United States and among the biggest TV and broadband providers in the US, too.

But it barely has a presence outside the US, and Roberts wants to change that. International businesses are just 9% of Comcast's revenues, and all of it is from NBCUniversal's channels and theme parks. With a Sky takeover, that rate shoots up to 25%. Sky could be a launchpad for further expansion plans.

It could also be a finger in the eye of Murdoch, the 21st Century Fox patriarch.

Murdoch already owns 39% of Sky, and he has been trying for years to buy the rest. His current proposal is tangled up with British regulators.

While Murdoch been trying to get the deal done, the 86-year-old has also been thinking about the future of his media empire. Late last year, he held talks with both Roberts and Iger about selling most of Fox, including the existing 39% stake in Sky.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Comcast made the more lucrative offer -- a bid "in the low-$60 billions range" -- but Fox went with Disney's offer of $52.4 billion in stock.

Fox reportedly had serious concerns that a deal with Comcast would be rejected by regulators.

Whatever the reasons, Murdoch chose Iger and vice versa. The deal was announced in December. So this is an obvious source of tension between the media titans.

When the Disney-Fox deal was announced, some Comcast observers had flashbacks to 2004 and Roberts' attempt to buy Disney. More recently, he proposed a merger with Time Warner Cable in 2014, only to see it smothered by the aforementioned regulators.

After a year of merger planning, Comcast abandoned the bid in 2015, and Charter swooped in to buy Time Warner Cable.

With Time Warner Cable, Comcast would have inherited millions of homes with television subscriptions. Comcast is now seeking something similar, but in Europe instead of the US

Roberts was in London on Tuesday for the surprise announcement. He told reporters that he was impressed by Sky's technology while he was on a trip to London last November.

At a Sky retail store, he and a colleague "spent at least an hour going through every feature and comparing it to our own," Roberts told The Guardian newspaper. "We were really terribly impressed."

Speaking with the Journal, Roberts talked about his growth ambitions for Comcast more generally.

"In a world where you're getting into competition with Amazon, Google and Facebook, having scale" is important, he said.

Terre Haute
Broken Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 65°
Robinson
Scattered Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 63°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 63°
Rockville
Scattered Clouds
60° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 60°
Casey
Few Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 66°
Brazil
Broken Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 65°
Marshall
Broken Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 65°
Showers Today!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 290373

Reported Deaths: 8845
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1436345210
DuPage17471561
Lake16892487
Will13984378
Kane13092326
St. Clair6607190
Winnebago5959149
Madison5698136
Champaign470320
McHenry4581118
Peoria349450
McLean327923
Rock Island299576
Kankakee274177
Unassigned2537244
Sangamon241145
Kendall200925
Tazewell177425
LaSalle171257
DeKalb157938
Macon154444
Coles146430
Williamson140145
Jackson126124
Clinton116920
Boone112523
Adams112310
Randolph93911
Effingham8702
Vermilion7704
Whiteside74320
Ogle7106
Monroe67416
Knox6703
Grundy6695
Henry6665
Morgan66123
Bureau64111
Jefferson61138
Marion5540
Macoupin5447
Christian53911
Franklin5393
Stephenson5236
Union51524
McDonough48015
Logan4641
Crawford4503
Woodford4246
Fayette4183
Cass39811
Livingston3956
Jersey39215
Shelby3904
Montgomery37213
Lee3711
Iroquois36519
Perry35015
Saline3404
Warren3322
Bond3285
Douglas3127
Wayne2805
Jo Daviess2632
Lawrence2562
Carroll2305
Greene22711
Cumberland2175
Hancock2173
Moultrie2143
Jasper2119
Washington2111
Richland2095
Pulaski1801
Fulton1760
Clark1732
White1680
Johnson1560
Clay1540
Wabash1543
Mason1471
Piatt1400
Mercer1395
Pike1281
Menard1251
De Witt1221
Edgar1138
Massac1122
Ford1065
Marshall1040
Alexander811
Scott780
Gallatin732
Hamilton682
Henderson660
Edwards630
Brown610
Calhoun600
Putnam570
Stark552
Schuyler500
Hardin400
Pope291
Out of IL20

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 117450

Reported Deaths: 3580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21403766
Lake10618323
Elkhart6667111
St. Joseph6576110
Allen6292203
Hamilton4909109
Vanderburgh371931
Hendricks2747123
Monroe262736
Tippecanoe252313
Johnson2338124
Clark223657
Porter217647
Delaware198562
Cass19549
Vigo184327
Madison168975
LaPorte147441
Floyd138963
Warrick134440
Howard131863
Kosciusko124817
Bartholomew117957
Marshall101224
Dubois99119
Boone98646
Grant93334
Hancock93243
Noble92532
Henry80926
Jackson7689
Wayne76814
Morgan72938
Daviess67728
Shelby67729
Dearborn66528
LaGrange63911
Clinton60914
Harrison58724
Putnam58112
Gibson5305
Knox5259
Lawrence51529
Montgomery51121
DeKalb48711
White48614
Decatur45839
Miami4383
Greene42735
Fayette42313
Jasper3992
Steuben3877
Scott38111
Posey3400
Sullivan33812
Jennings31612
Franklin31125
Ripley3038
Clay3025
Orange28824
Whitley2796
Carroll27713
Adams2743
Wabash2718
Washington2691
Starke2677
Wells2654
Spencer2593
Jefferson2483
Huntington2453
Fulton2412
Tipton22822
Perry22113
Randolph2207
Jay1880
Newton17311
Owen1711
Martin1680
Pike1621
Rush1574
Vermillion1300
Fountain1282
Blackford1203
Pulaski1131
Crawford1080
Brown1043
Parke1032
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren401
Unassigned0226