Disney Seen Adding Cash To Fox Bid; Pivotal Fears Comcast Bidding War

Sky, including Sky News, is one of a number of entertainment assets that Fox agreed to sell to Disney for $52bn just before Christmas past year.

It would also bar Disney from selling Sky News over that period without explicit Government approval, and extend the funding commitment from 21st Century Fox from 10 to 15 years.

Under the proposed plans, Sky News would receive guaranteed funding of £100 million ($132 million) a year.

If Disney ultimately proves to be the new owner of Sky News - Hancock has said the news unit could also be sold to an "alternative suitable buyer" - it will not be allowed to sell it off for 15 years unless the culture secretary approves a deal.

That is on top of a formal commitment from Disney to preserve editorial independence at the news broadcaster.

"In my view, these revised undertakings meet the criteria that I set out to the House on 5 June and will help to ensure that Sky News remains financially viable over the long term; is able to operate as a major UK-based news provider; and is able to take its editorial decisions independently, free from any potential outside influence".

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Sky welcomed the decision, saying the United Kingdom approval process remained the only outstanding precondition that was stopping it putting Fox's offer to Sky shareholders.

As 21st Century Fox's board of directors prepares this Wednesday to weigh Comcast's still-fresh, gargantuan $65 billion cash offer, things could move quickly.

"This is a takeover battle and Comcast is doing everything they can to get Fox to the table", said David Becher, associate professor at the Drexel University LeBow College of Business.

It said at the beginning of April that it would continue funding Sky News for five years at the present level and for a further five years at a level "not materially different" from now. That's especially true for Comcast, who, according to federal law and provisos already written into Fox's initial Disney agreement, will be seen as the pursuing party with the greatest burden in proving the worth of its rival offer.

Sky said this afternoon that it welcomed Mr Hancock's statement.

A bidding war between Comcast and 21st Century Fox, which has offered £10.75 per share at a total of £11.7bn for the 61 per cent of Sky it doesn't already own, has already driven share prices up to more than £13.

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