* 21st Century Fox Inc. is under increased pressure to boost its takeover offer for Sky plc after the British company secured Premier League rights, London's The Daily Telegraph reports. Sky investor Polygon Global Partners said the recent deal acquired by the broadcaster now undervalues the earlier offer by Fox, Reuters reports. Sky's shares on Feb. 14 increased by 3.5% to £10.98, higher than Fox's £10.75 per share offer.
* Chinese private equity firm Orient Hontai Capital completed its acquisition of a 53.5% stake in Spanish media company Mediapro, in a deal worth about €900 million, Advanced Television reports. Post-deal completion, Mediapro will continue to be led by its chairman Jaume Roures and founding partner Tatxo Benet.
* Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video will premiere its first French original series, "Deutsch-Les Landes," toward the end of 2018, Variety reports. Apart from France, the 10-part series will also be available in Germany through Deutsche Telekom AG's streaming service EntertainTV under the title "Germanized," as well as in Belgium through Amazon Prime Video.
UK AND IRELAND
* As expected, Sky plc and British Telecom will continue to broadcast live Premier League games for the 2019-2020, 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons after securing the bulk of the rights offered in a recent auction. Sky has secured packages B, C, D and E with a total of 128 matches. The British pay TV giant said it will pay £1.19 billion per year under the three-year contract, about 16% lower than the current agreement. Meanwhile, BT said it secured package A containing 32 matches, which will cost £295 million per season.
* Sky Sports, ESPN Inc. and Formula 1 have entered into a multiyear linear and digital deal to air 21 championship races on ESPN and ABC channels in the U.S., Advanced Television reports. The British company will also produce additional segments for ESPN to complement the airing of the championship matches.
* London-based DRG has acquired an equity stake in Double Yellow Television, a production company established by former ITV Plc executives. Double Yellow will be joining DRG in its new offices in London's West End later in February.
* Norwegian company Sixty has appointed new executives for its new office in London. Adam Bowley has been named vice president of broadcast technology and Gary Ellis as vice president of TV technology. Sixty is also looking for a sales director for its London office.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* Swiss digital security provider Kudelski SA is eyeing a sale of its SmarDTV unit to streamline its DTV solutions portfolio. Kudelski said it intends to transfer SmarDTV's assets and resources as part of partnerships with set-top box and conditional access module suppliers.
* RTL Group's RTL Deutschland has announced a partnership with TV platform owner M7 Group SA to broadcast the group's channels. Part of the deal are channels RTL HD, VOX HD, n-tv HD, NITRO HD, SUPER RTL HD and RTL II HD.
* Microsoft France said it has launched Microsoft for Startups, a new program that integrates a commercial dimension to support already offered. The Microsoft Corp. unit will invest more than $500 million over the next two years to boost the development of marketing for startups.
* The communications department at Groupe M6 has been reorganized, with M6 and the RTL radio division together under Communications Director Emilie Pietrini. The communication of digital channels is now organized under free and pay TV divisions.
NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM AND LUXEMBOURG
* The Administrative Court for Trade and Industry in the Netherlands ruled against Vodafone Nederland's objection to KPN NV's acquisition of Reggefiber BV. The Vodafone Group Plc unit argued that the takeover would disrupt the fiber-to-the-home market competition balance, but did not find support from the court.
* TV operator Canal Digitaal and video-on-demand service Videoland have removed geoblocking within the European Union, TotaalTV reports. The European Commission prohibits active geoblocking within the EU from May 1 onward.
* No Dutch internet service providers will appeal the court decision forcing them to block The Pirate Bay, antipiracy organization Stichting Brein writes. The final court decision is planned for March 2; the blockade is expected to be maintained.
* Swedish gaming company THQ Nordic AB is acquiring German company Koch Media for €121 million. Koch Media makes digital entertainment products in Europe and North America, and has studios in Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. THQ said that it will evaluate its capital structure after the transaction and investigate possible loan financing solutions in order to finance further acquisitions.
* TDC A/S announced that its Plenti ApS and Telmore A/S brands are to be merged, and will continue under the Telmore name. The company said the reason is that the two virtual operators have several overlaps, including customers with high data and entertainment consumption. Customers of Plenti will keep their present prices and content after the company is merged with Telmore.
* TDC also said that it has started the deployment of a nationwide narrowband internet of things network, built on the company's existing mobile network. Copenhagen is already covered and the expansion to the rest of the country will happen during 2018.
* Ericsson AB announced that 4G speeds of up to 2 Gbps were reached in a lab test in cooperation with Telstra Corp. Ltd., Netgear Inc. and Qualcomm Inc.'s Qualcomm Technologies Inc. The test results accelerates the companies' joint efforts to deliver a Gigabit LTE network.
* AMC Networks International has expanded its European operations to include France and Italy. The AMC Networks Inc. unit, which only covered Spain and Portugal previously, will operate under newly named unit AMC Networks International Southern Europe. Eduardo Zulueta, who is also president of AMC Networks International Latin America, will head the new unit that will be headquartered in Madrid.
* Orange España confirmed plans to launch a mobile banking service in the second half of 2019, following a similar move by its parent Orange SA, Telecompaper reports.
* Greek operator Forthnet SA ended its partnership with SuperLeague, which organizes the country's top-division soccer, Telecompaper reports. The termination takes effect in the 2018-2019 season.
* Argentina's Televisión Federal SA will continue airing Turkish drama series as part of a content deal with Swedish distributor Eccho Rights, Rapid TV News reports. The deal covers Ay Yapim's "Brave and Beautiful" and "Insider," as well as the second season of Green Yapim's "Eli."
* Greece's OTE launched an HD version of its documentary channel Cosmote TV History, Broadband TV News reports. The channel also revealed plans to air more than 40 new productions and co-productions in 2018.
* Russia's ER-Telecom JSC, doing business under the Dom.ru brand, completed the acquisition of TeleMir, an internet service provider based in the city Lipetsk, Telecompaper reports, citing Cnews.ru.
* Hrvatski Telekom revealed plans to axe 60 jobs by end-March under efforts to adapt the company to market and technological trends, Telecompaper reports, citing Poslovni dnevnik. The Croatian operator is expected to spend a gross average of 230,000 Croatian kuna on severance payments for the affected employees.
* UPC Romania's business commercial manager, Bogdan Nitu, has left the Liberty Global plc unit to take a new role at an IT and communications company, Telecompaper reports, citing Ziarul Financiar.
The Program Guide: Global edition: HBO Europe orders 'Success'; ITV commissions 'Singapore Grip': Amazon.com is teaming up with Liberty Global for a dystopian thriller, while ITV commissioned "The Singapore Grip," an epic story set during World War II.
Voice automation gains ground in retail, transportation, other industries: Smart speakers and voice automation software have begun to transcend beyond connected homes and media tech as these emerging technologies are increasingly used across a range of different industries.
Multichannel Trends: Telco HSD market share tumbles, but fiber shows signs of turnaround: DSL defections have weighed on the telco high-speed data universe in the past three years, hitting its wireline market share in a majority of markets. However, the sector is bucking the trend in some midsize markets where it has deployed fiber.
Anne Freier, Amanda Kelly, Koen Pijnappels and Esben Svendsen contributed to this report. The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 7 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription.