21st Century Fox to take over European broadcaster Sky

LONDON (AP) — Rupert Murdoch’s media giant Twenty-First Century Fox has agreed to take over European broadcaster Sky PLC in a 11.7 billion pound ($14.6 billion) deal, the companies said Thursday.

The deal values the shares in London-based Sky at 10.75 pounds ($13.41) each. It is not expected to be complete before the end of 2017.

Twenty-First Century Fox already owns just over 39 percent of Sky. An earlier attempt to acquire the rest was scuttled by the 2011 phone-hacking scandal that rocked his British newspapers and the media establishment. The scandal abated, and a drop in the pound following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union made the company cheaper to take over.

Another approach was long predicted. James Murdoch, Rupert’s son and the CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox, became chairman of Sky in April. He had been CEO of Sky, then known as BSkyB, from 2003 to 2007 and chairman from 2007 to 2012.

Taking control of Sky will give Twenty-First Century Fox, which owns cable networks Fox News, FX and the Fox broadcast channel and a major Hollywood film studio, a distributor in Europe. Sky has 22 million customers in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

“The strategic rationale for this combination is clear,” Twenty-First Century Fox said in a statement. “It creates a global leader in content creation and distribution, enhances our sports and entertainment scale, and gives us unique and leading direct-to-consumer capabilities and technologies.”

The move comes as part of a wider consolidation among media and broadcasting companies — bringing together the maker of films and television programs together with distributors of content. Entertainment companies are trying to adapt as consumers increasingly bypass traditional TV and spend more time watching video on their phones.

Wireless carrier AT&T has proposed buying HBO, CNN, TBS and film studio owner Time Warner in the U.S. for $85.4 billion. Cable giant Comcast finished its takeover of NBCUniversal in 2013.

In Europe, France’s Vivendi media group has accumulated a 20 percent stake in Italy’s Mediaset, potentially setting up a hostile takeover bid. Shares in Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset empire were volatile Thursday after the government suggested it wouldn’t accept a hostile acquisition.

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