The raid, which is part of an investigation into the distribution of sports-media rights, has provided fodder for opponents of Fox’s takeover of Sky, the big European pay-TV service.
Fox Networks and Ziggo Sport were among companies raided by European Union antitrust regulators as part of a probe into the distribution of sports-media rights.
The inspections were carried out in several EU countries at companies related to broadcasting rights for various sports events, the European Commission said in a statement late Tuesday. Officials are expected to stay through Wednesday and possibly Thursday at the west London offices of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Networks Group, according to the Daily Telegraph, which first reported the raid.
The probe comes at a difficult time for 21st Century Fox Inc., the owner of Fox Networks, which spent months trying to gain U.K. and EU approval to purchase Sky Plc, the big European pay-TV service. EU regulators approved the acquisition last April, but U.K. regulators continue to assess it as part of a separate media plurality review. Comcast Corp. topped Murdoch’s offer for Sky with a $31-billion (U.S.) bid in February.
Fox and Ziggo Sport said they are cooperating with officials. Antitrust raids by EU regulators are a first step in investigating suspected violations and don’t signal guilt, the commission said.
The raids may be an offshoot of a long-running EU probe into pay-TV rights. Regulators have been taking aim at industry contracts that prevent people from viewing movies and TV programs outside the country in which they are sold, focusing on Sky’s deals with major motion picture studios including Walt Disney Co., Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Brothers unit, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal, and Sony Pictures.