LOS ANGELES -- Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox swooped in Wednesday with a higher bid for Sky that values the London pay-TV company at $32.5 billion. The move was designed to keep the popular satellite television service out of the hands of Fox's rival, Comcast Corp.
The battle over Sky is just one front in a larger tug-of-war to determine which U.S. media company -- Comcast or the Walt Disney Co. -- wins the bulk of Fox's entertainment assets. But in the meantime, Fox and Comcast are trying to outmaneuver each other for Sky.
Fox already owns 39 percent of the service. Murdoch's company has been struggling to buy the remaining 61 percent since 2016 -- long before Murdoch envisioned selling his company. In December, Murdoch agreed to sell the bulk of his company to Disney -- including Fox's stake in Sky.
Comcast, however, is trying to spoil those plans.
In February, the Philadelphia cable giant attempted to poach Sky with a $31 billion offer that was substantially higher than Fox's original bid. Comcast formalized its offer in April.
But on Wednesday morning, Fox upped the ante with a $18.58-per-share offer for Sky. The new bid came just two days before a deadline set by the British government for Comcast to finalize its deal.
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Independendent shareholders accepted the new Fox bid, which tops Comcast's offer of $17.44 a share. Now, Comcast must scramble to respond before Friday -- or risk losing the prize.
"As the founding shareholder of Sky, we have remained deeply committed to bringing these two organizations together to create a world-class business positioned to deliver the very best entertainment experiences well into the future," Fox said in a statement.
A Comcast spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
Sky has nearly 23 million customers in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy -- fertile ground for any U.S. media company with global ambitions. Sky also owns TV channels, including news and sports channels that hold key Premier League soccer rights. Its shares have surged since Comcast announced its interest.