Rich Greenfield: Murdoch Wavering on Selling Fox to Disney

June 7, 2018

By Alisha Haridasani

Rupert Murdoch is looking beyond Disney for the sale of the bulk of 21st Century Fox's assets, Richard Greenfield, media and tech analyst at BTIG told Cheddar exclusively.

“I think a lot of people have said not only is he focused only on selling to Disney but he really wants Disney stock and wants to be a long-term owner. We believe that is factually incorrect,” said Greenfield, citing several sources familiar with the matter.

Murdoch has been negotiating with Disney for months to sell off Fox's Hollywood studio and its British broadcaster, Sky News, for $52 billion in stock. The deal would make Disney one of the largest content creators in the U.S., owning half of the U.S. box office.

“Rupert, like his shareholders, are now fully aligned and simply want the best possible outcome,” said Greenfield. “I think this is a real opening for Comcast.”

Comcast came in with another $60 billion all-cash offer in May, wedging itself back in the running for a deal that would help it expand its global presence and give it a much-needed lifeline as more consumers jump from cable to streaming services.

“When you think about the challenges to the video business, it's under a lot of pressure," said Greenfield. "So Comcast is looking to globally diversify as well as increase their content creation." If Comcast does pluck Fox out of Disney’s lap, “it gives them a clear path into the UK, Germany, and Italy, which are Sky’s three big markets.” It would also give them ownership of popular franchises, including “X-Men,” “The Simpsons,” and “This Is Us.”

Comcast's smaller market share could actually work in its favor in the fierce bidding war, especially when it comes to regulatory approvals at a time when the mega AT&T-Time Warner is being scrutinized in court for antitrust issues, said Greenfield.

"Most of the government’s case against AT&T-Time Warner has been that it’s national," he said. "Putting a national company together with content is problematic from an antitrust perspective."

"Comcast is not a national company, they’re a regional player. So there is, potentially, still a very clear path for a Comcast-Fox merger to be approved by regulators even if AT&T-Time Warner is not approved."

The new version of Fox, whichever way Murdoch decides to go, will be slimmed down to just a few of its sports channels and its business and news broadcast pillars, helmed by Murdoch’s son Lachlan.

For full interview, click here.