Comcast drops out of Fox race to focus on Sky

US quadplay provider Comcast has ended its efforts to acquire a group of media assets owned by 21st Century Fox, abandoning its bidding war with Disney to instead focus on its offer for pay TV group Sky.

Time was running out for Comcasts efforts to acquire the Fox assets. The firm had countered Disneys initial bid with an all-cash offer of $66bn (£50bn) last month, but Disney returned with an offer of $71bn in cash and stock for the assets. Fox shareholders are scheduled to vote on the Disney deal on 27 July.

Reacting to the news, Disney chief executive Bob Iger said he was “extremely pleased with todays news, and our focus now is on completing the regulatory process and ultimately moving toward integrating our businesses.”

The markets also reacted to the news, with shares in Comcast up 2.2 per cent in premarket trading, while Fox fell one per cent. Disney shares also saw a marginal boost.

With the Disney deal off the slate, the broadband and mobile operator will focus on its $34bn offer to acquire 61 per cent of Sky. Fox, which already owns 39 per cent of Sky, has also been seeking to acquire the majority stake.

Sky boasts almost 23m pay TV subscribers in the UK and Ireland, Italy, Austria and Germany, and would provide Comcast with a major foothold in the European market, where it has not traditionally competed.

The burst in merger activity comes as media companies and networks increasingly seek to compete with firms like Netflix and Amazon. Sky currently operates the UKs third-largest OTT streaming service, Now TV, in addition to its traditional subscription-based pay TV service.