The Comcast bid throws a wrench into what was already a fraught process, and is bound to raise a number of issues. Among the most pressing:
Would senior Fox executives have any potential role at Comcast?
Dana Walden and Gary Newman, chairmen and CEOs of Fox Television Group, and Peter Rice, president of 21st Century Fox and CEO of its Fox Networks Group, have been the subject of much speculation since the Disney pact was unveiled. Could these executives potentially find a place at Disney? And what might happen at Comcast, where NBCUniversal is already staffed with executives ranging from CEO Steve Burke to Universal Filmed Entertainment chairman Jeff Shell, NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment topper Bonnie Hammer and NBC Sports chief Mark Lazarus?
Would Comcast face new regulatory scrutiny?
The company has already tripped regulatory wires at least once, with its bid for Time Warner Cable. Would it do so again? A person familiar with the company’s process suggested Comcast feels its current studio and sports assets are far smaller than Disney’s (though NBCU does control rights to both the Olympics and “Sunday Night Football”). This person suggested Disney would have bigger assets in these areas even if Comcast were to win the Fox properties.
The streaming-video hub was founded by Comcast and 21st Century Fox, who were subsequently joined by Walt Disney and Time Warner. Comcast had to take a back seat to Hulu’s other owners in exchange for getting approval to buy NBCUniversal. In September, those limits are slated to end, prompting questions about Hulu’s next steps. By snaring Fox, Comcast could control a 60% stake in the outlet and assert far more control than ever.
Who will ultimately reach for Sky?
Comcast has launched a separate bid to buy 61% of European satellite broadcaster Sky. Fox, which owns 39% of the entity, is in the midst of trying to buy the remaining shares of the company. Presumably, Disney would inherit those holdings, depending on Fox’s success. Comcast’s higher offer comes as British regulators have dithered over the idea of Fox ownership, raising the prospect that Disney might not be able to gain full control of the entity.