* Discovery Inc. will be launching its flagship home and lifestyle channel HGTV (US) in Italy and 11 countries in central Europe this year as part of the U.S. media company's expansion plans. HGTV will roll out as a free-to-air channel in Italy on Feb. 2, while it will go live in Romania, Hungary, Serbia and other central European markets as a pay TV channel in the first quarter.
* Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC will allow Android users in Europe to choose a default search engine from four providers, including Google, CNBC reports. Google unveiled the options for each European country, based on the results of a blind auction. The changes will take effect from March 1 to June 30 and will change based on another round of auction, which is set to take place quarterly.
* KKR & Co. Inc. executives Johannes Huth, Philipp Freise and Franziska Kayser are joining Axel Springer SE's supervisory board following the U.S. investment company's recent acquisition of Axel Springer shares.
* An Italian court turned down a request by Vivendi SA to suspend a ruling forcing it to freeze two-thirds of its stake in Italian broadcaster Mediaset SpA, Reuters reports. The decision comes prior to Mediaset's shareholder meeting that will vote on governance tweaks to a Dutch holding company to pursue tie-ups with European peers.
* Eleven Sports Network Ltd. will show live coverages of Cage Warriors events in Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy in 2020 and 2021, according to a statement. The upcoming coverages form part of an extended partnership with European mixed martial arts promotion Cage Warriors.
UK AND IRELAND
* BBC Studios Ltd. revealed its intent to launch a three-year culture and engagement plan to improve the overall experience of working at the British Broadcasting Corp. The announcement is part of the BBC's response to a recent report by the National Audit Office on BBC Studios' operations.
* Ofcom announced that it will impose regulations to reduce the prices out-of-contract customers pay and require broadband, phone and TV companies to inform customers about the end of their contract beforehand, as part of wide-ranging guidelines of the British regulator's Fairness for Customers program.
* CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.'s Three U.K. welcomes Ofcom's plan to change regulations of British Telecom's national Openreach Ltd. network. The move will be 'instrumental" in the "widespread rollout of true 5G networks" and offering choices of providers for U.K. customers, Three U.K. General Counsel and Regulatory Affairs Director Stephen Lerner said in a statement. The British regulator's proposal includes offering varied rules for different parts of the U.K. to ensure that rural areas benefit from the same connectivity as urban locations.
* British Telecom is teaming up with video infrastructure company ATEME SA to tackle TV broadcasting piracy of satellite-uplinked, subscription-based content. Under the partnership, BT will use ATEME's Basic Interoperable Scrambling System Conditional Access encryption technology to prevent the piracy of satellite content.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* Insight Venture Management LLC, or Insight Partners, agreed to purchase Switzerland-based cloud data management company Veeam Software Group GmbH in a deal valued at roughly $5 billion. The transaction, set to be completed in the first quarter, will result in Veeam becoming a U.S. company with a U.S.-based leadership team.
* Netflix Inc. ordered unscripted dating series "Love Is Blind" from Red Arrow Studios International GmbH-backed Kinetic Content LLC, TBI Vision reports. The series will premiere globally Feb. 13.
* Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland GmbH renewed its standard definition distribution agreement with satellite operator SES SA. The German broadcaster's free TV channel package, which includes RTL, VOX, ntv and regional programs, will remain on SES' ASTRA satellites, SES said.
* German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE set up its own sustainability department, reports Werben und Verkaufen. The department, which aims to help the company emit less carbon dioxide in production and use less plastic, will be headed by Annette Kümmel.
* German media company Dumont Mediengruppe Gmbh & Co. Kg plans to sell newspapers Mitteldeutsche Zeitung and Hamburger Morgenpost, reports Meedia. Hamburger Morgenpost Managing Director Susan Molzow may be interested in acquiring the paper but is demanding about €4 million from her employer to consolidate the market position of the title.
* Former Bfm Business TV presenter Stéphane Soumier partnered with Cmi France SA and Daniel Kretinsky to launch Bsmart TV, a specialized television channel targeting business executives and entrepreneurs, Le Figaro reports. Bsmart TV is set to start airing in April.
* Iliad founder Xavier Niel injected about €30 million in Molotov SA, Capital reports. As reported in Letter A, the rescue plan for the over-the-top platform has been accepted by shareholders, and the Commercial Court ended the conciliation procedure, which was opened in June 2019.
NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM AND LUXEMBOURG
* Altice Europe priced and allocated €2.8 billion of senior secured notes at unit Altice International Sàrl as part of the subsidiary's refinancing. Of this, €2.2 billion will mature in January 2028 with a weighted average cost of 3.06%. The remainder will mature in January 2025 with a cost of 2.25%, the lowest coupon debt ever raised by Altice International.
* Dutch network operator Alliander NV said it acquired TReNT Glasvezel, which manages nearly 1,900 km of dark fiber infrastructure in the eastern part of the Netherlands. No financial details were disclosed.
* The Dutch Foundation of Journalists and the Dutch Association of Writers and Translators will enter into talks with the Dutch Consumer and Market Authority about DPG Media NV's announced acquisition of Sanoma Media Netherlands BV, reports Villamedia. They said that if the merger is allowed, the negotiating room for freelancers will become even more limited.
* Nokia Corp. said it reached 63 commercial 5G contracts worldwide. The commercial contracts do not include other 5G agreements like paid network trials, pilots or demonstrations.
* Norwegian performing rights organization TONO said it reached a settlement with terrestrial TV distributor RiksTV over the use of music in broadcast channels from 2009 to 2019. RiksTV paid TONO 100.5 million Norwegian kroner, after negotiations following a Supreme Court case in 2018.
* Swedish audiobook streaming company Storytel AB said it passed 1.1 million paying subscribers, exceeding its forecasts for the fourth quarter of 2019. Streaming revenue in the quarter was 421 million Swedish kronor.
* Spotify AB launched streaming ad insertion technology in its original podcast offering, Dagens Media reported. The technology will give both advertisers and podcast creators more information about the listeners.
* Investment fund Aberforth Partners LLP acquired a stake of more than 6% in telecom investor Zegona Communications PLC for an undisclosed sum. Zegona Chairman and CEO Eamonn O'Hare expects the investment to help boost regional operator Euskaltel SA, in which Zegona is the largest shareholder.
* Vodafone Italia SpA is preparing to launch commercial fiber-optic services in 15 additional Italian cities, Telecompaper reports, citing MondoMobileWeb. The Vodafone Group PLC unit will deliver the gigabit fiber services using the wholesale network of Enel SpA unit Enel Open Fiber SPA.
* Telefónica SA may be required to provide wholesale access to its fiber network in more cities viewed as competitive areas, under an upcoming revision of Spain's wholesale fixed broadband rules, Telecompaper reports, citing sources mentioned by El País.
* The Spanish Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by soccer league La Liga to reverse a High Court ruling that allows Mediaset to broadcast 90-second footage of the league's game highlights, Telecompaper reports, citing Cinco Días.
* Spain's Balearic Islands will only have until Feb. 11 to finish the latest digital terrestrial TV migration process, with a large majority of the residents yet to return their antennas, Telecompaper reports.
* Russia's Yandex NV is considering launching its own mobile virtual network operator, which could use Tele2 Russia Telecom's network, Russia Business Today reports, citing Kommersant. The tech company may also reportedly offer access to music and video streaming services.
* A+E Networks launched its factual entertainment channel History2 in Hungary through Deutsche Telekom AG unit Magyar Telekom, Advanced Television reports.
* Canal+ Polska named Malgorzata Seck vice president of its programming department, Broadband TV News reports. Seck will take over the duties held by Edyta Sadowska, who also serves as CEO.
Hires and Fires Europe: Sunrise CEO steps down; Sky gets new group CFO: Olaf Swantee stepped down as CEO of Swiss telecom operator Sunrise Communications, while Comcast named Jason Armstrong group CFO of its European pay TV unit Sky.
Economics of Internet: Global Video, OTT Index: Kagan provides links to its video provider operational tracking and programming spreadsheets, video-on-demand and over-the-top library data and analysis, and OTT company and country reports.
Anne Freier, Sylvia Edwards Davis, Charlotte van Hek and Esben Svendsen contributed to this report.
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