scorecardComcast's $40-billion deal for Sky is all about Netflix
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Comcast's $40-billion deal for Sky is all about Netflix

Comcast's $40-billion deal for Sky is all about Netflix
Tech3 min read

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Comcast's $40-billion acquisition of the European broadcaster Sky will strengthen its global footprint in content creation to take on Netflix and Amazon. The US cable giant, which owns NBC Universal, has had its eye on Sky ever since it dropped out on the $71 billion bidding war for 21st Century Fox assets in July.

After beating out the Disney-backed Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox to acquire Sky's assets, Brian Roberts, Comcast's chairman and chief executive, said, "This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally."

With the takeover of Sky, Comcast immediately gets access to 23 million customers in seven countries, 2 million customers on its streaming service called Now TV, and broadcasting rights to premier sporting properties like English Premier League games and Formula One. This will allow Comcast to compete against Netflix and Amazon by investing in original programming and scaling up distribution channels in new markets.

Due to the rise of streaming giants and a large number of households dropping cable-TV subscriptions in favor of the former, media companies have been struggling to figure out alternate revenue streams to the mature American TV market. In an effort to solve their problems, they have launched streaming services, acquired companies, and expanded overseas. They have even sold themselves to wireless companies like Time Warner did with AT&T.

According to a UBS note sent to clients on Monday, Comcast's subscriber base will climb to 53 million from 30 million as a result of the Sky deal, while its international reach jumps to 25% from 8%. The deal will also help Comcast develop its direct-to-consumer strategy by giving it "greater scale to amortize its content investments," the analysts said.

But the battle between the cable giants is not yet over. Analysts now see the limelight shifting to Hulu, and Disney-Fox's stake in Sky. Currently, Comcast, Fox, and Disney each have a 30% stake in the streaming service. Now, with its acquisition of Sky, Comcast owns 61% of the European pay-TV giant while Disney and Fox own the remaining 39%.

And based on the Comcast offer, UBS analyst John Hodulik values the Disney/Fox stake in Sky at about $15.5 billion and Comcast's stake in Hulu at $3 billion.

"We believe it also sets the stage for possible asset swaps," he said. "With Disney/FOX potentially selling its Sky stake (worth ~$15.5B based on Comcast's offer) and Comcast perhaps selling its 30% stake in Hulu (UBSe $3B)."

Comcast shares were down 7% Monday. Shares of Disney were up by 2% and Fox shares climbed 1.1.% while Sky surged by 8.9%.

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