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Comcast's potential disruption of Murdoch's plans comes almost seven years after the media mogul withdrew a previous bid for full control of Sky, an offer that was derailed by the phone-hacking scandal that resulted in the closure of his newspaper The News of the World.

Comcast, which first outlined an offer at the same £12.50 a share price in February, said it would continue to engage with the Sky's independent directors with a view to obtaining a recommendation for its deal.

"We are delighted to be formalising our offer for Sky today", said Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts.

Sky withdrew its recommendation for the £11.7 billion Fox deal following Comcast's offer but stressed that both bids are "subject to pre-conditions and neither offer is now capable of being put to shareholders".

Since then Walt Disney has agreed to buy most of Fox's entertainment assets, including its stake in Sky, in a separate transaction that will not be completed until next year. "Comcast is gaming out the possibility of making a public case to the company's shareholders that they should reject the Disney deal, which is expected to come to a vote this summer, and opt for a Comcast tie-up instead, people familiar with the situation say".

Sky's shares raced 4% higher as Comcast's move raises the prospect of a bidding war.

On Wednesday's earning call with investors Roberts said that Comcast loves its position of being both an owner and distributor of content and is impressed by continued momentum in Sky's business, which is a company that looks very similar to Comcast. "We have long believed Sky is an outstanding company and a great fit with Comcast".

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Comcast also said it will give legally-binding commitments to maintain editorial independence at Sky News.

The Fox offer had faced hurdles a year ago when the UK's Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport issued a European intervention notice, which asked United Kingdom media regulator Ofcom to report on two public interest considerations around the merger plans.

"We also understand the role that Sky plays in United Kingdom society and in its customers' lives, and we are determined to be responsible and trusted owners of Sky", Roberts said in a statement.

"The group looks on course to deliver operating profits of £1.5bn this year, double what it earned 10years ago".

On Wednesday, Sky welcomed commitments Comcast had made to address potential public-interest concerns over Sky News, its influential 24-hour news channel. It said on Wednesday it remained committed to its offer and was considering its options.

That is because Comcast has a minimal United Kingdom media market presence.