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James Murdoch Claims Sky Merger Is A “Significant Driver” For Future Success of UK Creative Industries

Deadline logo Deadline 3/2/2017 Diana Lodderhose
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With 21st Century Fox’s £11.7B ($14.3B) takeover of Sky looming, James Murdoch claimed the imminent acquisition would be a boon for the UK creative sector and would have no negative bearing on media plurality.

It is, perhaps, a rather unsurprizing sell from the Fox CEO who touched down in London on Thursday to speak at the Deloitte Enders Media & Telecoms 2017 and Beyond conference, as the deal still risks scrutiny by British competition authorities and Ofcom, the media watchdog.

As his company seeks regulatory approval for the purchase of the 61% of Sky that Fox doesn’t already own, Murdoch told delegates that the Sky takeover would be “a significant driver of the UK creative industry’s long-term success in the global market.” He said the UK market “figures heavily” in the group’s future strategy and that Fox and Sky had put a combined investment of around £700M ($858M) last year into original production in the UK alone.

“We intend to continue at least that level of investment while building on Sky’s already outstanding original content pipeline,” he said, pointing to the company’s investment in Shine Group to create Endemol Shine, one the country’s biggest producers of scripted programming with shows such as Black Mirror, Broadchurch and Humans.

Murdoch added: “Looking to the future, we’re confident the enhanced scale and capabilities of the combined company will be a powerful driver of the creative industry’s vibrancy in Britain, plus in Italy, and in Germany, and in the global market, and a provider of better experiences for customers everywhere.

“And to do this at scale, which this combination enables, ensures that the Sky business can continue to compete within a competitive set that now includes some of the largest companies in the world, but none of whom have the local depth of investment and commitment to the UK and to Europe.”

Murdoch went on to praise the country’s “strong public service output” and, without naming names, pointed to a new and vastly competitive environment

“We are in an era of ultimate plurality, where choices, sources and access are multiplied, even from where we were only five years ago,” he said.

In December, Sky said it had reached an agreement with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox to acquire the remaining shares of the company that it did not already own just five years after the UK hacking scandal forced the then-20th Century Fox to scrap a deal.

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