Will Comcast's Pricey Play for Sky Pay Off?

Craig Moffett fears that deal for Sky could become an 'albatross' for Comcast, questions the potential to use acquisition to create a global OTT juggernaut.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

September 24, 2018

3 Min Read
Will Comcast's Pricey Play for Sky Pay Off?

Suffice it to say that Craig Moffett still isn't a fan of Comcast's play (overpay?) for Sky.

"For Comcast, we fear that Sky will be an albatross," MoffettNathanson LLC analyst Craig Moffett wrote Monday in reaction to Comcast's lofty winning bid for Sky over the weekend. (See Comcast Boosts Cash Offer for Sky and Comcast Outbids Fox for Sky With Offer of £17.28 Per Share.)

After arguing that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) "grossly overpaid" for UK-based video giant Sky , Moffett also downgraded Comcast's stock to "Neutral" and set a new target price of $36.

To put things in perspective, Moffett points out that in December 2016, before Fox first put Sky into play, the markets had valued Sky at just £7.67 ($10.07) per share, compared to Comcast's winning bid of £17.28 ($22.59), a 125% premium to Sky's "unaffected price of twenty one months ago."

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Investors aren't wild about Comcast's bid, either. Comcast shares were down 7.48% (to $35.06 each) in morning trading Monday. Meanwhile, shares in Sky are up about 8.5% at last check.

Noting that satellite video distribution, a major component of Sky's pay-TV platform, is "increasingly becoming obsolete," Moffett also questions whether Comcast will be successful in turning Sky's collection of exclusive programming deals into a global OTT powerhouse that can rival Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX).

While Sky does have exclusive European content rights with big media names and sports properties such as HBO, Showtime Networks Inc. , Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), 21st Century Fox , Paramount, the Premier League, the National Football League, Formula 1, Serie A and Bundesliga, among others, those deals won't last forever. Additionally, HBO, Showtime and Disney already have plans to go direct-to-consumer, and Comcast will likely have to bid against well-heeled companies such as Facebook to retain rights to the Premier League, Moffett writes.

If the exclusives on some of that content are indeed fleeting, it also means that Comcast might have to take a page from the Netflix playbook by ramping production at its own studio -- another costly ramification.

Looking ahead, Moffett believes it is "reasonably likely" that a follow-on deal will see Comcast acquire the rest of Sky from Disney/Fox for the same "stupendous price" that Comcast has already agreed to pay. That might include a swap whereby Disney acquires Comcast's 30% stake in Hulu LLC , which has about 20 million SVoD subs, with about 1 million subs also taking its relatively new live TV service. Disney shares are up almost 2% this morning. (See As Hulu Live Tops 1M Subs, Who Leads the OTT-TV Race?)

"[S]uffice it to say that we believe whatever growth Comcast can generate in its new businesses will have to offset what we expect to be inevitable declines in its core," Moffett said.

Moffett also acknowledges that Sky won't be the "new center of gravity" at Comcast, as Sky would represent 11% of trailing 12-month revenues based on 61% ownership, and 17% if Comcast were to buy all of Sky.

However, the notion of future spending on self-produced content and uncertainties about Sky's transition to OTT makes it "big enough to matter," the analyst said.

Comcast, of course, has a much different view. Company chairman and CEO Brian Roberts has called Sky a "unique asset," while the company has touted Europe as a highly attractive market, and believes that the acquisition of Sky will "create a leading platform for growth."

As for analyst concerns that satellite TV is a struggling business, Roberts argued in February that Comcast views Sky as a broader "media company" with respect to its healthy blend of content creation and distribution.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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