Comcast Starts Bidding War With 21st Century Fox for Sky

Comcast’s move, telegraphed two months ago, seizes upon Fox’s troubles in getting government approval for its bid, which was announced in late 2016. British regulators have questioned whether buying Sky, which operates the 24-hour news channel Sky News, would give Mr. Murdoch too much control over the country’s news media, given his ownership of newspapers like The Times of London and The Sun.

It also changes the calculus for Fox and Disney. Both have already offered concessions to allay regulators’ concerns, including an offer to sell Sky News to Disney.

But now they may be forced to pay up to win Sky.

Under the terms of its offer, Comcast would pay 12.50 pounds, or $17.45, a share in cash for each Sky share. Fox has offered £10.75 a share.

Hoping to press on Fox’s weak spot, Comcast said that it was committed to Sky News’s editorial independence, offering to set up a board for the news unit and maintain its funding. Comcast also repeated pledges to increase investment in Britain’s film and television industries.

“We will invest to grow and enhance Sky’s business and be a strong steward of its valuable brand,” Brian L. Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “Sky is a great British business — with us, that’s the way it will always be.”

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Fox said that it remained committed to its takeover offer and was considering its options. It could raise its offer, which would likely require Disney’s consent. Or it could do nothing and hold on to its 39 percent stake, potentially putting it in an uneasy alliance with Comcast if its rival’s offer goes through.

While Sky withdrew its recommendation for Fox’s bid, it is not clear if it will formally back either Comcast or Fox. That may depend in part on how regulators rule on either bid. Britain’s competition regulator is expected to offer its recommendation on Fox’s bid by May 1, while a final decision, by the country’s culture secretary, is expected by mid-June.

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