Comcast abruptly ended its ongoing bidding war for Fox assets Thursday, issuing a terse statement that it would no longer pursue the properties, adding it would focus its attention on British satellite company Sky.
“Comcast does not intend to pursue further the acquisition of the Twenty-First Century Fox assets and, instead, will focus on our recommended offer for Sky,” the company said in a statement.
The concession ends what many expected to be a drawn out fight for the assets, which both companies had pursued to fight back threats from OTT and SVOD competitors like Netflix and Amazon Prime. In a statement, Brian Roberts congratulated Disney on a fight well fought.
“I’d like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the Murdoch family and Fox for creating such a desirable and respected company," Roberts said in a statement.
Disney had thought it had the Fox deal sewn up in December, when it offered $52.4 billion in stock for cable channels FX, FXX and National Geographic, movie and TV production studio 20 Century Fox, about 20 regional sports networks and interests in Hulu and Sky.
But before Disney and Fox shareholders could vote on the deal, Comcast lobbed in a counter offer in June valued at $65 billion in cash.
That prompted Disney to up the ante, offering $71.3 billion in cash and stock.
That deal, accepted by Fox and approved by the U.S. Dept. of Justice – as long as Disney agreed to divest of the RSNs within 30 days after close – was expected to be countered again by Comcast before a planned July 27 shareholders meeting.
Adding to the uncertainty was DOJ’s plans to appeal the court decision that gave the green light to AT&T’s $108.7 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. That could have made Comcast a little less confident that a Fox deal would pass regulatory muster.
In the end, Comcast believed that its attention was best focused on pursuit of Sky, for which it has engaged in a bidding tussle with Fox for several months. After Fox increased its bid for the 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own to $32.5 billion, Comcast countered with a $34 billion bid for the assets.
Now the question will be what will Disney do with its Sky interest -- it inherits Fox's 39% stake in the satellite giant if its deal for the Fox programming assets goes through.