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Fox will sell Sky stake to Comcast for about $15 billion

Traditional broadcasters are scrambling to strengthen their position against Netflix and Amazon Prime.


After losing a bidding war with Comcast, 21st Century Fox plans to sell its remaining stake in major UK television company Sky.

US cable TV giant Comcast succeeded Saturday in its quest to nab Sky, outbidding rival 21st Century Fox as traditional TV and film companies look to beef up their offerings and fend off upstarts like Amazon and Netflix.

Comcast's final offer values Sky at around 29.7 billion pounds (about $39 billion). It bid 17.28 pounds per Sky share. Fox bid 15.67 pounds. 

On Wednesday, Fox said it would sell its 39 percent stake in Sky to Comcast for 11.6 billion pounds (more than $15 billion).

The deal is the latest in a frenzied period of media giants attempting to buy each other, as traditional broadcast and movie companies face growing competition from tech giants. Deep-pocketed firms like Netflix and Amazon have eye-popping budgets and are pouring money into media production and streaming rights.

In July, Comcast lost out to Disney in a bid to buy Fox. Home to popular franchises like X-Men, Deadpool, The Simpsons and more, Fox's entertainment assets could benefit Disney significantly. Disney is looking to launch its own streaming service by the end of next year. 

On Wednesday, Disney said selling 21st Century Fox's stake in Sky would reduce the amount of debt it will take on in its acquisition of the entertainment company.

"Along with the net proceeds from the divestiture of the [Fox Sports Regional Networks], the sale of Fox's Sky holdings will substantially reduce the cost of our overall acquisition and allow us to aggressively invest in building and creating high-quality content for our direct-to-consumer platforms to meet the growing demands of viewers," said Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, in a release.

Comcast didn't respond to a request for comment on the Sky acquisition. Earlier this year, CEO Brian Roberts highlighted Sky's 23 million customers and leading market position in the UK, Italy, and Germany and said in a statement that Sky had been "a consistent innovator in its use of technology to deliver a fantastic viewing experience and has a proud record of investment in news and programming."

Sky's Now TV box and Sky Q streaming service were designed in part to help Sky compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime, which specialize in streaming video online. Sky also has broadcasting rights to popular sporting events like English Premier League soccer, though in June, Amazon netted a deal to livestream exclusive coverage of 20 games a season over the web.

CNET's Joan E. Solsman and Katie Collins contributed to this report.

First published Sept. 22, 1:35 p.m. PT.
Update, Sept. 26 at 8:18 a.m. PT: Adds news that Fox will sell its stake in Sky and comment from Disney.

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