(Reuters) - Twenty-First Century Fox shares were up over 4% in early trading on Friday after sources said both Comcast and Verizon Communications were also interested in buying parts of its studio and TV operations.
A week after reports of interest from Walt Disney Co in buying out much of Rupert Murdoch’s US film and television empire, the sources hinted at the prospect of a battle between other media suitors for the assets.
Buyers have expressed interest in Fox’s production studios, cable networks FX and National Geographic, and international assets such as the Star network in India and Sky Plc, sources told Reuters on Thursday.
Media companies may see consolidation
“Either Disney or Comcast would be a good fit, but its always about price and neither has to be a strategic buyer, only opportunistic,” said JBL Advisors analyst Jeffrey Logsdon. Shares of other media companies which could be dragged into a round of consolidation of US film and TV production and distribution were largely unchanged.
Comcast, the largest cable provider in the US, has steadily boosted its content ownership over the years and buying Fox’s assets would give it an international distribution footprint and strengthen its position against Disney.
Traditional media companies have been struggling with subscriber declines as streaming service Netflix has gained traction with younger audiences that shun traditional cable and satellite offerings.
Rivals and bids
Netflix fell in early trading and Verizon shares were higher on Friday while Disney inched up and Comcast slid -1.40%.
Fox and Disney are co-owners of Hulu, a streaming service that offers on-demand and live TV packages. Hulu is also partially owned by Comcast and Time Warner.
Although acquisition of a movie studio and cable channels would be a departure for wireless carrier Verizon, its interest in Fox assets was likely piqued by rival AT&T’s bid for HBO and CNN owner Time Warner, which is awaiting regulatory approval.
Scepticism over a Verizon deal
“(I am) sceptical of a Verizon deal, creative businesses are very tough to manage for an outsider,” Logsdon said.
Fox’s other assets include Fox television network, Fox News Channel and Fox Entertainment Group, which owns the popular movies studio 20th Century Fox.
Fox shares have gained about 9% in value in the last six months.