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Comcast offers to buy Sky; Liberty Media eyeing 40% stake in iHeartMedia

Top News

* Comcast Corp. offered to buy Sky plc for £12.50 per share, valuing the British pay TV giant at around £22 billion. The takeover bid topples the agreed offer of £10.75 per Sky share by 21st Century Fox Inc., representing a value of about £11.7 billion for the nearly 61% of Sky that Fox does not already own, the company said. Analysts think Comcast's offer could spark a bidding war.

* Liberty Media Corp. is looking to buy a 40% stake in iHeartMedia Inc. for $1.16 billion in cash, The Wall Street Journal reports. The news comes as iHeartMedia has been negotiating with lenders a restructuring of its more than $15 billion in debt at the company's radio business.

* The U.S. Department of Justice cleared Discovery Communications Inc.'s proposed acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. The closing of the proposed transaction remains subject to completion of review in Ireland and other customary closing conditions, the company said. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the first quarter.

* CBS Corp. launched a 24-hour streaming sports news network offering news, highlights and analysis, while Charter Communications is offering a new in-home skinny bundle called Spectrum TV Choice, according to the current edition of The Week Ahead.

Theme Parks

* Joel Manby stepped down as president and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., effective Feb. 26. The company's board tapped John Reilly, SeaWorld's chief parks operations officer, to serve as interim CEO of the company until a replacement is named, according to an SEC filing.

TV Networks

* Scripps, in what is likely its last reporting period before its acquisition by Discovery, posted almost an 8% year-over-year increase in operating revenues, with gains in both advertising and distribution during the fourth quarter of 2017. The programmer, which did not hold an earnings call or provide guidance for 2018 owing to its pending $11.76 billion purchase by Discovery that is expected to close by the end of the first quarter, reported consolidated operating revenues of $956.1 million, a 7.6% increase from the $888.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

* Private equity firm Francisco Partners struck a deal to buy a controlling equity stake in Discovery Education Inc. from Discovery Communications for $120 million in cash. Discovery will retain a minority equity interest and license the "Discovery Education" brand to the business, the company said.

* Jeff Zucker, president of Time Warner Inc.'s CNN Worldwide, asked the "advertising world and the technology world" to help find new ways of monetizing digital content, Variety reports. Speaking at an event in Barcelona, Zucker also urged the government to look into the "monopolies" allegedly created by Google Inc. and Facebook rather than only scrutinizing the proposed mergers of AT&T Inc. with Time Warner and Fox with Walt Disney Co.

Internet & OTT

* Netflix Inc. pumped $6.30 billion into original and acquired programming in 2017 and plans to increase that budget to $8 billion in 2018, Recode reports, citing a presentation by MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson. Among other streaming companies, Amazon.com Inc. spent $4.5 billion in 2017 and Hulu LLC spent $2.5 billion, while Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. spent $1 billion each on non-sports programming that year.

* Modeled after CBSN digital news service, CBS Sports HQ is a free, ad-based, direct-to-consumer service tapping talent and resources across the programmer's sports properties. A collaboration between CBS Sports and CBS Interactive, CBS Sports HQ provides live news and stats coverage from anchors and reporters, who will look to bring key insights to information and highlights that will be updated around the clock.

* Turner Broadcasting System Inc.'s FilmStruck streaming service struck a deal with Warner Bros. Digital Networks to add more titles to its content lineup. The deal will also grant FilmStruck exclusive access to films from the Warner Bros. classic film library, according to a news release. FilmStruck costs $6.99 a month, while FilmStruck with The Criterion Channel costs $10.99 per month or $99 annually.

* Amazon.com placed a second season order for anthology series "Lore." Season one of the supernatural series, adapted from Aaron Mahnke's podcast of the same name, is now available exclusively on Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories, the company said.

* Google's YouTube unveiled new features for live streaming on the video-sharing platform. According to an official blog post, the new features include chat replay to YouTube, English automatic captions for live streaming videos, and the option to add a location tag.

Technology

* Apple is working to unveil three new iPhones later this year, Bloomberg News reports, citing sources with knowledge of the company's plans. The lineup will feature the "largest iPhone ever," an upgraded smartphone that will be as big as the iPhone X and a cheaper version of the iPhone as well.

* In a ruling that reasserts the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's authority to regulate certain practices from communications companies, a federal appeals court ruled Feb. 26 that the FTC can pursue its speed-throttling enforcement action against AT&T. The full 9th Circuit court ruled that the Federal Trade Commission Act's common carrier exemption is, in fact, activity-based. As a result, since AT&T's mobile broadband service is not classified as a common carrier service despite the telecom's overall status as such, the court denied AT&T's motion to dismiss the FTC's complaint.

* Following a series of objections to Broadcom Ltd.'s takeover effort, QUALCOMM Inc. is now willing to accept its rival's bid if the offer is sweetened to $160 billion including debt, London's Financial Times reports, citing people involved in the talks. Broadcom recently reduced its offer for Qualcomm to $79.00 per share from $82.00 per share.

* Sprint Corp. will introduce its 5G mobile network in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., this year. The U.S. carrier said it expects to deploy advanced network technology, called Massive MIMO, across the U.S. in 2018 and 2019.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng was down 0.73% to 31,268.66. The Nikkei 225 rose 1.07% to 22,389.86. In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 dropped 0.15% to 7,278.76, and the Euronext 100 slid 0.23% to 1,030.59.

On the macro front

Retail inventories index, Wholesale inventories, Redbook, Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index, State Street Investor Confidence index and FHFA House Price index are due out today.

Featured news

The Daily Dose Europe: Comcast makes £22B Sky offer; Meredith to sell Time UK; Vodafone, BT, FCC at MWC: Comcast has proposed to acquire British pay TV giant Sky for £22 billion, while Meredith Corp. has agreed to sell Time UK, and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is in full swing, with key notes from Vodafone Group Plc, British Telecom and the chairman of the FCC.

The Daily Dose Asia-Pacific: Indonesia's Go-Jek secures US$1.5B funding; Samsung gets FCC nod for 5G service: Indonesia's Go-Jek secured US$1.5 billion from investors that included Google and Tencent Holdings Ltd., while Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.' 5G service secured approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The Week Ahead: FTC dives into privacy as Mobile World Congress kicks off abroad: The Federal Trade Commission will host PrivacyCon 2018, exploring both the security implications and economics of privacy measures. Overseas, Mobile World Congress, the world's largest mobile technology event, kicks off in Barcelona, Spain.

M&A Replay: European deals: Fox sweetens Sky offer; Qualcomm raises NXP bid: 21st Century Fox improved its bid for pay TV giant Sky with an offer to extend its funding guarantee for Sky News (UK) to at least 10 years, while Qualcomm increased its takeover offer for Dutch chipmaker NXP Semiconductors NV.

Featured research

Economics of Internet: State of Philippines online video: Subscription: VOD subscriptions continue to grow in the Philippines despite limited capabilities of broadband infrastructure and a preference for free content.

Economics of Advertising: SEC Network, CBS Sports Network grow coverage ratings in January: Live coverage of college basketball games propelled the ratings growth delivered by SEC Network (US) and CBS Sports Network (US) in January, according to data from comScore Inc.'s TV Essentials.

Technology: Hybrid IP gateway market experiences some volatility in 2017: Market demand for hybrid IP gateway, or HIPG, set-top boxes declined in 2017, as a number of leading deployments seem to have reached saturation.

The Best Of: Kagan research and analysis, editor's picks: Presenting the editor's top picks from Kagan's exclusive research and analysis for the week ended Feb. 23.

Economics of TV & Film: Weinstein Co. declares intent to file for bankruptcy: Weinstein Co. LLC announced Feb. 25 that it will declare bankruptcy after a proposed $500 million deal to sell the company to a group of investors fizzled out.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 7 a.m. ET. Some external links may require a subscription.