Sky News is not “critical” to Sky’s business, according to the company’s chief executive Jeremy Darroch.
Earlier this week, the UK’s competition watchdog said in its provisional findings that the proposed £11.7bn bid to takeover Sky by 21st Century Fox was not in the public interest.
Prior to the findings, Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, who is attempting to buy the 61 per cent of Sky he does not already own, struck a deal to sell Sky and other assets to Disney, including Sky News.
Darroch is said to have told analysts in a call that addressing concerns about the Fox deal was a priority. “I wouldn’t describe Sky News as critical to the business today, indeed I wouldn’t pick any part of our business and say it’s critical,” Bloomberg has reported Darroch as saying.
“If for any reason we didn’t have Sky News, I don’t think that would be material in terms of the direction of the business.”
He is reported to have added: “Sky News is a great service. It’s very highly valued.
“It was more important in the overall mix of the company when we were launching, in the early days. It gave us a lot of brand presence – it was an area we could build in.”
As part of its findings, the Competition and Markets Authority has said there are possible “remedies” to allow Fox’s takeover bid to pass.
They included “structural remedies”, including either the spin-off of Sky News into a new company or selling it off, or “behavioural remedies”, including “enhanced requirements” around the editorial independence of Sky News.
In a statement to the CMA in November last year, Sky said the watchdog “should not in its assessment simply assume the ‘continued provision of Sky News’ and its current contribution to plurality”.
Sky News employs 500 journalists and technical staff.
The company’s stock price has risen by 14 per cent since November, and spiked 1 per cent this morning amid growing investor confidence in the possibility of a buyout.
If the takeover goes ahead, Disney is set to acquire all of Sky.
Sky has yet to respond to a request for comment.