Rupert Murdoch has launched an ambitious bid to create a pan-European television giant to tackle fierce competition, rapid sector consolidation and aggressive bidding wars for live football rights.
British pay-TV group BSkyB revealed it was in talks to buy holdings in sister firms Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia from Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox media conglomerate, which currently owns 39 per cent of London-listed BSkyB.
“The company initiated preliminary discussions with 21st Century Fox to evaluate the potential acquisition of its pay-TV assets in Germany and Italy,” said a BSkyB statement on Monday which gave no indication of price.
It added: “BSkyB believes at the right value, this combination would have the potential to create a world-class multinational pay TV group”.
A 21st Century Fox spokesperson said that while it had carried out “numerous internal discussions regarding the organisational and ownership structure of the European Sky-branded satellite platforms … no agreement between the parties has ever been reached”.
Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, which comprises the mogul’s film and television assets, currently owns 55 per cent of Sky Deutschland and all of Sky Italia.
Industry experts say the deal would create a major player with the power to sell services and compete for broadcasting rights across three key European nations, with a total of more than 17 million subscribers.
BSkyB faces intense competition from British telecoms firm BT, which launched its own sports channels last year offering free Premier League football if customers sign up to its broadband internet package.
BT had outgunned BSkyB in November to secure exclusive rights to televise all Champions League and Europa League football matches in Britain for three seasons from 2015.