Yesterday we reported that Comcast was expected to bid $60 billion to acquire the 21st Century Fox assets Disney had already bid $52.4 billion for. Those assets include 22 regional sports networks. Well, the bid is in and it is actually $65 billion.
That is an all cash offer, by the way.
Disney and Fox shareholders had been rushing to approve the deal before Comcast entered a bid. The new, higher number may change Fox shareholders’ plans.
As we reported yesterday, regulators in the US will be keen to keep an eye on what a Comcast acquisition of Fox would mean to sports fans. Fox’s 22 RSNs represent the most owned by a single company. Comcast owns the second most at 8. If this sale goes through, Comcast would own six times as many RSNs as the company with the second highest number (Spectrum with 5). Combine that kind of dominance in the RSN field with the fact that Comcast is also a cable provider, and that may represent a significant hurdle.
Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing explains that Fox shareholders may still consider Disney the frontrunner, because the RSN situation would not stand in the way of any deal Fox makes with that company.
Disney is a content provider, not a cable provider. And sure, there still could be concerns about the extra leverage they’d gain from controlling a ton of RSNs; when it comes to carriage negotiations, it’s nice to have a bunch of networks that you can potentially pair, to say nothing about how much of the TV sports landscape would be under Disney’s roof after this deal. But Disney doesn’t currently own RSNs, so there would still be two major players in the RSN landscape after their deal, plus the smaller ones.
In a tweet, Wall Street Journal media reporter Joe Flint says both Disney and Comcast have indicated that they would be willing to unload FOX’s RSNs if that is what holds up a deal.