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U.K. Clears Way for Bidding War Between Comcast and Disney Over Sky

Disney has already struck a $52.4 billion deal to buy most of Fox, including its 39 percent stake in Sky. But Comcast is weighing whether to make a counterbid for those same assets, which include the 20th Century Fox movie studio and the Star broadcaster in India.

Both Disney and Comcast want to expand their holdings at a time when bigger is better for media companies. Digital giants like Netflix and Amazon are gaining power as consumers increasingly watch movies and television online. Traditional content providers have decided that the only solution is more deal-making: AT&T has offered $85.4 billion for Time Warner, and companies are paying billions for exclusive sports broadcast rights.

Sky would play an important role in both Disney’s and Comcast’s future-proofing efforts. The London-based broadcaster has 23 million customers across five countries, and it owns valuable broadcasting rights to English Premier League games and other sporting events. It also has a streaming service, NOW TV.

U.K. Clears Way for Bidding War Between Comcast and Disney Over Sky
U.K. Clears Way for Bidding War Between Comcast and Disney Over Sky

Mr. Murdoch has long coveted regaining control of the broadcaster, which he founded in the early 1990s. He tried once before to buy out other investors in the company, in 2010, but was forced to withdraw amid furor over a phone-hacking scandal involving his British tabloid empire.

When Fox bid for Sky in 2016, regulators were again wary of letting the offer go through.

Fox has sought to assuage their concerns, promising to maintain the editorial independence of Sky’s news arm. Ultimately, Mr. Hancock, the British culture secretary, insisted that Sky News be sold to protect its integrity. He told Parliament on Tuesday afternoon that the news operation could be sold to Disney, as Fox has proposed, or to another buyer, as long as it remains financially viable.

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