Just because his company may be on the verge of a mega-merger doesn’t mean Peter Rice doesn’t have plenty to say about media M&A.
The 21st Century Fox president and chairman/CEO of Fox Networks Group kept mostly mum Thursday in a Q&A at Variety’s annual Dealmakers event regarding the imminent possibility of a deal that could send him, along with tens of billions of dollars in Rupert Murdoch-owned assets, to Disney.
But while Rice cited the sensitivities around the high-staked negotiations as a reason for executive silence on both sides of the deal, he opened up on a wide range of issues, from how the media sector will be transformed by consolidation and competition with Silicon Valley to Fox’s own takeaways on the sexual harassment scandals rocking Hollywood.
Even though he wouldn’t answer any questions about the potential deal, Rice slipped in a few relevant observations. Asked by Variety co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller whether a merger as massive as the proposed Disney-Fox one could theoretically run into regulatory hurdles, he replied, “Any time you have two large media companies combining, it’s going to be looked at by the Justice Department. It will get looked at.”
Rice also addressed how the DOJ seems to be treating the AT&T-Time Warner union, noting the government body’s behavior under the Trump administration isn’t consistent with how it’s conducted itself under previous presidents. “There seems to be a head of the Justice Department who doesn’t believe in putting conditions on mergers,” he noted. “That’s different than how they dealt with Comcast and NBCUniversal.”
Across the pond, Fox is also seeing regulatory hurdles pop up in its pursuit of taking full ownership of Sky. But Rice expressed confidence Fox would get the thumbs up from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority, which was given the merger to review in September.
“They are saying they will rule on it in January,” Rice said. “Our…