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Sky takeover probe to focus on media plurality, broadcasting standards

12 October 2017

The results were announced against the backdrop of a bid from Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox to buy the remaining 61% of Sky it does not already own.

Analysts had hinted at a slowdown in top line growth but the United Kingdom broadcaster saw like-for-like revenues rise by 5% in the three months ended 30 September to £3.3bn - the same rate it delivered in 2016.

Revenues grew five percent to £3.3 billion ($4.4 billion, 3.7 billion euros) over the same period.

The group said fantasy drama Game Of Thrones was now its "most-watched series ever", while it also hailed home-grown series Riviera after it notched up 20 million downloads.

Sky, which is now the subject of a full takeover bid by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, said it made a strong start to its new year, with an improvement in revenue and new customer numbers.

The London-listed group has exclusive rights to USA broadcasting giant HBO's television catalogue, which includes the current seventh season of the award-winning show.

Ahead of the meeting some shareholders had said they were planning to oppose Murdoch's re-election because they did not believe he could effectively represent independent investors as he is also chief executive of Twenty-First Century Fox FOXA.O . Darroch's total annual packet more than trebled to £16.3 million in Sky's last financial year despite annual profits taking a knock from the escalating cost of broadcasting live Premier League football.

In the United Kingdom and Ireland Sky continued the momentum it built towards the end of previous year, with revenues up 4% and EBITDA rising 11% to £452mln.

Earlier this year, the deal was referred by Karen Bradley, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on the grounds of concerns about media plurality and broadcasting standards. The CMA will seek to prevent "any one media owner, or voice, having too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda", it said in the statement. With respect to media plurality, the CMA will assess the current level of media plurality in the United Kingdom, the extent to which the deal reduces that level of media plurality, and whether the remaining level of plurality of persons with control of media companies would be sufficient. Along with the general landscape of news consumption in the United Kingdom, two key questions here are whether and how the ability of the Murdoch Family Trust to control or influence editorial and commercial decisions at Sky News will change as a result of the merger; and whether and how the ability of the MFT to influence the political agenda will change as a result of the transaction.

Sky takeover probe to focus on media plurality, broadcasting standards