The love dance between Rupert Murdoch of 21st Century Fox and Bob Iger of Disney has moved a long way since talks last Autumn.
The initial price discussed for the Fox assets, minus the American news channels, was a trifling $23-per-share. By the time the deal was unsheathed in December it has moved up to $28-per-share.
After the intervention of cable giant Comcast, with its all-cash offer of $35-a-share, Disney has come roaring back with a $38-a-share for Fox in a deal valuing the Murdoch controlled empire at £53billion ($71.6billion).
The love dance between Rupert Murdoch, left, of 21st Century Fox and Bob Iger, right, of Disney has moved a long way since talks last Autumn
Getting here has not been easy. In the intervening period 87-year-old Murdoch has had a health scare, 21st Century Fox gained the consent of the British authorities to proceed with its bid for the minority in Sky and the US Justice Department was given a bloody nose in the courts when it moved to block the AT&T bid for Time Warner.
That ruling suggested that in the new age of Amazon Prime and Netflix anti-trust enforcers are not much interested in deals among the existing entertainment and media players.
The Murdoch family prefers the Disney offer to that of Comcast. The share element of the Disney deal (now lowered to 50 per cent) would lower the Murdochs’ tax bill and provide the family with a continuing interest through a shareholding of around 5 per cent.
Nothing has been agreed but there has also been a suggestion of a role for James Murdoch who helped to turn Sky into a technology powerhouse.
Even at these high-octane price levels, we shouldn’t count out Brian Roberts of Comcast just yet. Roberts is mesmerised by Sky and has assiduously courted executives during several visits to London.
Even if Comcast were to decide that betting the finances of the Roberts family on 21st Century Fox might not be prudent, he could seek a carve out of the Fox stake in Sky just to go away.
Whether Iger-Murdoch would want to sacrifice a crown jewel with reach in Germany, Italy and the Far East is an open question.
Disney and Comcast come at this deal from different perspectives. Disney is a content enterprise which has been willing in the past to pay outlandish prices for assets such as Pixar. It wants Fox for its distribution capacity as well as its programming.
Comcast started out as a cable company and is now in search of better content. If Comcast has a problem it will be the debt mountain it must take on to outbid Disney.
As far as the UK is concerned, the best that can be said is that both American buyers recognise the value of Sky, its content and creativity and are vowing more investment in Britain. The word Brexit has not crossed their lips.
It also reminds us that in this global media world Britain’s leading terrestrial broadcasters ITV and BBC are no more than boutique players. What boutiques need to do is play to their strengths.
ITV is investing to be a great production house. The BBC is still trying to be all things in the media space. Unless it focuses on what it does best, from global news to costume dramas, it will be drowned by commercial competition.
What do you do if you are a British tech minnow being penalised by your biggest customer? Imagination Technologies found it easier to sell itself to Chinese funded Canyon Bridge rather than come up with a defence strategy.
Dialog Semiconductor, which like Imagination is an Apple supplier, is choosing the alternative course of building on its expertise by seeking to buy US touch-screen group Synaptics.
The deal would reduce reliance on Apple and take it into a promising growth area.
After the slump in Dialog’s share price finding the £1.6billion to do the deal could be tricky. City financiers must come forward to back a digital project.
The media spotlight proved too tempting to Neil Parish, chairman of the Commons rural and food committee, when faced with Roger Burnley of Asda and Mike Coupe of Sainsbury’s.
Instead of forensic questions Parish launched a ferocious attack accusing the supermarket bosses of talking a ‘load of baloney’.
Parish may be on the right track but the hyperventilating MP would have been more effective if he had elicited previously undisclosed data.
What a lost opportunity.