Cavanagh: Sky Deal ‘Checks Important Boxes’

Comcast senior executive vice president and chief financial officer Mike Cavanagh responded to critics of its unsolicited bid for European satellite TV giant Sky at an industry conference Monday, adding that for a company looking for quality scale in today’s markets, the deal “checks important boxes.”

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Media, Telecom & Business Services conference in Palm Beach, Fla., Cavanagh said Sky’s scale – 23 million customers in Europe – its sports and original content assets and its growth prospects – all make it a compelling buy.

“It’s got market leadership positions, it’s got good management and solid momentum. It’s not a turnaround project,” Cavanagh said. “We don’t see it as a satellite platform. What satellite provider, in the U.S. context, has the networks that Sky programs that command close to 50% of the viewing by subscribers?”

Comcast made an unsolicited bid for Sky on Feb. 27 that values the company at about $31 billion. Comcast’s offer is about 16% higher than an earlier proposal by 21st Century Fox, which already owns 39% of the satellite company, for the remaining 61%.

Sky is considered to be a strong player – it is the largest pay TV operator in Britain and has deep content holdings.  But some have feared that Comcast’s Sky bid could touch off a war with Fox over the asset, as well as being a precursor for a separate bid for certain Fox assets. Fox agreed to sell cable channels FX, FXX and National Geographic, its TV and movie production studios, its regional sports networks, and its interests in Sky and online video pioneer Hulu to the Walt Disney Co., in December. Whether Comcast’s bid will jeopardize that deal is unclear. Disney hasn’t commented on Comcast’s bid, and Fox has said Comcast hasn’t yet made a formal offer. It may comment later if it deems appropriate.