Comcast : advertising & marketing profile

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Comcast is America's leading cable television operator, now under the Xfinity brand, and also one of the world's biggest media owners following the acquisition of NBC Universal. That deal followed several earlier attempts to build a content offering, initially through the bolt-on of its own portfolio of cable channels. An ambitious bid to acquire Walt Disney came to nothing in 2004, but five years later the group entered talks with General Electric to acquire a controlling stake in the latter's NBC Universal subsidiary. A deal was agreed at the end of 2009, and was finally cleared by regulators at the beginning of 2011, giving Comcast management control of one of America's most famous TV networks as well as a major movie studio. Despite NBC Universal's continuing challenges, the group bought out GE's remaining stake in NBCU in 2013, more than a year earlier than expected. In Feb 2014, Comcast offered to acquire smaller rival Time Warner Cable for $45bn in a deal that would have merged the #1 and #2 cable networks in the US. Despite more than a year of negotiations with regulators, the deal was eventually abandoned in Apr 2015 after it was referred by the FCC to an administrative hearing.

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Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Jul 2018: Comcast today withdrew its bid to acquire the bulk of the entertainment assets being sold by 21st Century Fox, leaving the way open for Walt Disney to clinch that deal. Fox has already accepted Disney's bid and has shown a clear preference for that deal over a rival arrangement with Comcast. However, at the same time, Comcast reiterated its commitment to acquire 100% of European satellite broadcaster Sky. The most likely outcome now would be that Fox accepts Comcast's bid for the 39% of Sky it already owns, rather than press on with its own plans to buy the outstanding shares and then sell the whole business to Disney. Sky's board has already agreed to recommend Comcast's offer for the remaining publicly owned shares.

Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Jul 2018: The three-way battle between Fox, Disney and Comcast rages on. In a move that was intended to crush a rival offer from Comcast, 21st Century Fox raised its offer to acquire the shares it doesn't own in European satellite broadcaster Sky to £14 per share, valuing the business at £24.5bn. Comcast had previously offered £12.50 per share, topping Fox's earlier offer of £10.75. Only a day later, though, Comcast raised its own offer to £14.75, or a valuation of £26bn. Fox's intention is to take full control of Sky and then sell that business and most of its other entertainment assets to Disney. This week, Fox received a firm green light from UK regulators for the purchase of Sky, provided it commits to sell the Sky News channel to Disney or another buyer. Comcast is bidding separately for both Sky and also the whole Fox entertainment portfolio. It now looks increasingly likely that Sky and the other assets could end up with separate owners; with Comcast taking Sky and Disney the rest of the portfolio.

Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Jun 2018: Walt Disney came back hard to defend its proposed acquisition of Fox entertainment assets. It raised its original offer of $52.4bn in stock to around $71bn, of which half will now be in cash. That's a significant premium to Comcast's $65bn, although it doesn't contain as much cash. Fox immediately accepted the higher price, which it says is superior to Comcast's bid. The Murdoch family are keen to be paid in Disney shares, not just because of the tax implications but the considerable clout it would give them in the merged entity. Fox still thinks the Comcast deal would involve significant regulatory complications, despite the recent approval of AT&T/Time Warner. That's not stopping Comcast, though. Within hours of Disney's increase, it was in talks with its bankers to find ways of increasing its own offer further, perhaps to as high as $80bn. The bidding war isn't over yet.

Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Jun 2018: A US court gave an unconditional green light to AT&T's long-delayed $80bn takeover of Time Warner, rejecting the US government's contention that the deal would harm competition and raise prices for consumers. That argument was "gossamer thin", said presiding judge Richard Leon. The approval is expected to open the floodgates for similar such deals between communications companies and content owners. Indeed, within 24 hours of Judge Leon's ruling, Comcast launched a formal counter-bid for the entertainment assets that 21st Century Fox has already agreed to sell to Walt Disney. Comcast's $65bn cash offer is significantly more attractive to most public shareholders (though not necessarily to the Murdoch family) than Disney's $52bn all-stock proposal. Disney must now consider whether to raise it own offer to match.

Adbrands Weekly Update 10th May 2018: Fresh from its formal offer to acquire European satellite broadcaster Sky, Comcast is lining up finance to renew its bid to gazump Disney in a deal for the rest of 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets. Fox declined an earlier approach by Comcast, citing concerns over regulatory approval. According to Reuters, Comcast is considering an improved offer of around $60bn in cash, a significantly more attractive proposal to most shareholders than Disney's $52.4bn in stock. However, the Murdoch family is known to favour Disney's proposal, which would give them a significant voting position within an enlarged Disney-Fox empire. Much depends on the legal verdict over the AT&T/Time Warner deal, expected on June 12th. If that merger goes through, it will serve as a green light for Comcast to proceed, and would also no doubt trigger further consolidation elsewhere within the US media industry.

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