Star-Crossed Partners? Rupert Murdoch Flirts With Buying NBC


nbcfoxSomebody call Gossip Cop. As theories about the fate of NBC Universal rages on, one eyebrow-raising potential bidder has popped up in press accounts: Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation. Before you schoolgirlishly giggle and assemble a Shep Smith/Ann Curry/Greg Gutfeld/Mika Brzezinski news anchor dream team in your mind (or darkly fantasize, as HotAir’s AllahPundit has, about Keith Olbermann having to report to Murdoch), it’s worth asking: how likely is this? More importantly, what’s in it for both parties to keep this speculation alive?

Reuters reports that “Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and John Malone‘s Liberty Media are interested in NBC Universal, according to a report by CNBC, citing sources,” although they add that analysts see News Corp. as a less likely bidder due to antitrust concerns. Well, clearly. But how genuine is their interest?

The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman, who has largely stuck to her story that Comcast is the only relevant bidder for NBC Uni despite strong criticism from some quarters of the Internet (i.e. Nikki Finke), was immediately dismissive of the rumors: “Nobody I know believes the latest round of sniffing around the edges of NBC-Universal by NewsCorp or Liberty Media,” she wrote, adding (Finke is sure to love this) that “What I am hearing from inside and around the deal is that indeed the Comcast deal to buy 51 percent of NBC-Universal is done in principle, but it will be several more weeks before anything official is announced.”

The LA Times‘s Joe Flint provides a helpful, insidery account of what could be going on:

For starters, when a company like General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal is in play, everyone comes by to take a peak [sic] inside. It’d be foolish not to do that. It’s like having an open house in your neighborhood. Don’t you want to see how your neighbor has the kitchen set up? That doesn’t mean they are all interested in buying the thing, of course.

[…]And if you are wondering why News Corp. doesn’t come out and just say it is not interested in NBC Universal (we won’t even get into the regulatory hurdles such a deal would face), it’s because if a company starts to comment on one thing, it will soon have to comment on everything — so it’s just easier not to comment, period.

So Murdoch can potentially get some free intelligence out of this, acting as an interested bidder. NBC and GE, for their part, add a layer to their smokescreen, allowing them to make their decision in peace. But based on available information, it sounds like the mother of all TV mergers — the logo of which might involve a terrifying fox/peacock hybrid, or possibly searchlights that morph into feathers — probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

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