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EU approves Fox-Sky deal; Talpa nears deal for SBS

TOP NEWS

* EU antitrust regulators granted unconditional approval for 21st Century Fox Inc.'s bid to take full control of Sky plc under the EU Merger Regulation, clearing Rupert Murdoch's first major hurdle. According to a statement, the European Commission concluded that the combination of Sky's pay-TV operations in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the U.K. with Fox's film studio and TV channel operator raised "no competition concerns."

* Dutch media mogul John de Mol will receive full ownership of SBS, which holds TV channels SBS 6, Veronica, Net 5, and SBS 9, Algemeen Dagblad reports, citing sources. Finnish media company Sanoma Corp., which currently owns a 67% stake in SBS, reportedly plans to sell its share to de Mol's company Talpa.

PAN-EUROPEAN

* The European Commission directed online travel booking and price comparison services to comply with EU consumer protection rules, after 235 out of 352 such websites were found to have been providing misleading information on prices. The screening of the websites were conducted in October 2016 by the EC and EU consumer protection authorities.

UK AND IRELAND

* Apple Inc. began hiring in London as part of the its plans to develop its own graphics technology company, U.K.'s The Daily Telegraph reports, citing a number of job advertisements posted by the tech giant. The iPhone maker is said to be looking for graphic design roles for a U.K. design center. This follows Apple's recent move to cease using Imagination Technologies' designs for iPhone and iPad graphics chips.

* The British Broadcasting Corp. will inject additional funding of more than £11 million into services in BBC Northern Ireland over the next three years, according to a news release. This investment will help BBC Northern Ireland transform its digital output across news, sport and other areas; produce more drama, factual and comedy programming on BBC One Northern Ireland.

* TF1 Group-owned Newen Group appointed Julien Leroux as the company's executive vice president for sales and content development for Newen Distribution in the U.K., TBI Vision reports. Leroux will head the company's London office and will work with broadcasters and producers from both the U.S. and the U.K.

GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA

* FREENET TV is adding four channels to its internet protocol television offering, Freenet TV Connect, in Germany, reports Digitalfernsehen. The new additions are music channel Viva, Comedy Central, women-focused channel TLC and documentary channel N24 Doku. It also launched a radio player app that gives users access to more than 1,000 radio stations.

* WDR mediagroup in Germany has promoted its head of finance Frank Nielebock to lead the media group alongside Michael Loeb, according to a press release. WDR mediagroup restructured its senior management amid a broader plan to concentrate on advertising sales business by 2022.

* Der Tagesspiegel in Germany has hired Andreas Mühl for the newly created role of head of publishing, according to an article published on its website. Mühl was most recently deputy editor-in-chief at General-Anzeiger in Bonn.

* SwissSign, the joint venture between Swiss Post Ltd. and SBB, has appointed Markus Naef as CEO, with responsibility to develop a digital identification platform, reports Telecompaper. Naef was previously an executive at Swiss telecommunications company Sunrise and replaces Urs Fischer.

FRANCE

* Vivendi SA listed its CEO Arnaud De Puyfontaine as the top proposed candidate for Telecom Italia SpA's board, with the latter's current chairman, Giuseppe Recchi in fourth place, according to a news release.

* Vivendi said it agreed to settle the remaining claims of a long-standing class-action lawsuit filed by shareholders in 2002 over a three-way merger. Under an agreement, Vivendi will pay $26.4 million, which represents one-third of the total $78 million the company will pay to resolve the entire litigation, including the judgments previously entered.

* TF1 and France 2 will jointly organize a debate between the two rounds of the presidential elections in France to take place during the second week of the period from May 1, Le Parisien reports. News channel BFMTV addressed a letter to TF1, France 2 and French regulator Conseil supérieur de l'Audiovisuel expressing its interest in co-organizing the debate.

* French superhero channel Toonami, owned by Turner France, launched its YouTube channel, CB News reports. In February, Toonami claimed more than 2 million views on all platforms combined.

NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM AND LUXEMBOURG

* Dutch public broadcaster NPO has purchased a range of foreign films and series at the MIPTV in Cannes, Media Magazine reports. The newly purchased content includes award-winning films as "Moonlight" and "Elle" and series "Blue Planet 2," "The Same Sky" and "Apple Tree Yard."

* The Ziggo NV cable network still contains inconsistencies originating from the formerly separate Ziggo and UPC networks, Totaal TV reports. Standardizations that the Liberty Global plc unit has been carrying out since the networks merged two years ago have not yet been completed, causing difficulties for some customers.

NORDIC COUNTRIES

* About 821 former Nokia Corp. workers in Finland are expected to receive €2.6 million in "new careers" financial support from the European Globalization Adjustment Fund, according to the European Commission. The workers were laid off by Nokia in cost reduction programs.

* SEB Bank's SEB Venture Capital paid 85 million Swedish kronor to acquire a minority stake in Swedish personal finance app maker Tink AB, writes Digital Di. SEB has also bought shareholdings in AI and digital payments firms Now Interact, Leasify and Coinify AB.

* Facebook Inc. is to expand its data center in Luleå, Sweden, reports Digital Di. Facebook is looking to acquire land to build a third data unit on the Porsön peninsula. Amazon.com Inc.'s Amazon Web Services is also working on plans to build three data centers in Sweden.

* Telenor ASA is offering for sale 70 million of its common shares in VEON, reports e24.no. Telenor owns 416.7 million American depository receipts in VEON equal to 23.7% of all common shares. The offering has a full transaction value of US$259 million.

SOUTHERN EUROPE

* An Italian court blocked the use of Uber Technologies Inc.'s smartphone apps in the country due to unfair competition, Reuters reports, citing a court document. Uber's Italian unit reportedly said it would appeal the ruling, which favored a suit filed by major Italian taxi associations.

* Cosmote SA launched its second smart-city pilot project in Patras, Greece, Telecompaper reports. The telco teamed up with the Patras government to test smart parking and smart lighting services based on Narrowband Internet of Things technology.

* Spanish telecom regulator CNMC slashed Telefónica SA's wholesale access charge for its network by between 14% to 35%, Telecompaper reports, citing the watchdog. The price reduction is due to the impact of technological advances on costs and the price cuts offered by Telefónica itself to its clients.

* Spanish Broadcasting System Inc. received a notice from OTC Markets regarding its failure to satisfy one of the exchange's listing requirements. According to an SEC filing, the company's market capitalization for more than 30 consecutive calendar days had stayed below $5 million.

EASTERN EUROPE

* Bosnian operator Blicnet took over Focus-M's cable infrastructure in Modrica, Telecompaper reports. The acquisition will enable Blicnet to offer advanced digital TV, high-speed internet, fixed and mobile services to its current subscribers.

* O2 Czech Republic as is opening its LTE network to alternative Czech operators, Telecompaper reports. Mobile virtual network operators BLESKmobil, OpenCall, Moraviatel and Vinatel will thus be able to offer 4G services via O2's network from April, as well as Tesco Mobile from May.

* Magyar Telekom shareholders approved a dividend of 25 Hungarian forints per share from the company's 2016 profits, the telco said. The Deutsche Telekom AG unit will release an announcement on the dividend payment on April 13, with the first day of disbursement on May 23.

FEATURED NEWS

MarketWeek: Amazon gains as it inks NFL deal; Fox faces controversy: Amazon and AMC saw share gains as they inked streaming deals during the week that ended April 7.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Economics of Networks: MGM's $1B deal for EPIX estimated at 8.6x cash flow: In an agreement valuing the network at $1.275 billion, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced April 5 it would acquire the 80.91% of EPIX that it does not own.

Stefanie Eschenbacher, Sylvia Edwards Davis, Koen Pijnappels and Gerard O'Dwyer contributed to this report. The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 7 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription.