5:05 p.m. | Updated Comcast is exploring whether the British Sky Broadcasting Group, Britain’s largest satellite broadcaster and a lucrative pay TV asset 39 percent owned by News Corporation, could become available for purchase, according to several people briefed on the company’s strategic thinking.
Comcast’s thinking about a possible deal is in the preliminary stages, and the company has not made a formal offer or even approached BSkyB or News Corporation about negotiations, said these people, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the company’s strategy.
Michael J. Angelakis, Comcast’s vice chairman and chief financial officer, denied that the company had any interest in acquiring BSkyB.”This is complete rubbish,” he said in a telephone interview. “It is total speculation and inaccurate.”
As News Corporation faces the fallout of the continuing phone-hacking scandal in Britain, its stake in BSkyB has come under question. A British regulatory panel is investigating whether Rupert Murdoch’s media company is “fit and proper” to hold a broadcast license.
Last summer, News Corporation withdrew its $12 billion bid for the remaining stake in BSkyB, amid scrutiny related to the phone hacking carried out at by its News of the World tabloid. Since then, the chances of News Corporation reviving that bid have diminished.
These circumstances have prompted News Corporation to consider divesting its BSkyB stake at a premium and retreat from what once looked like a key part of the conglomerate’s $50 billion portfolio, according to these people. News Corporation does not want to be forced to sell its BSkyB stake in a fire sale, if Ofcom, the British regulatory body reviewing the matter, were to deem the company unfit to hold the broadcast license, analysts have said.