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Sky ups investments in Europe, Israel; EU clears Hutchison's Wind Tre deal

TOP NEWS

* British pay TV giant Sky PLC unveiled efforts to step up its startup investment and commercial partnerships. The company has opened a new office in Berlin to look for target relevant startups in Germany and the Nordic region. Sky has also committed to investing $4 million in Israeli venture capital fund Reimagine Ventures.

* The European Commission has approved VEON Ltd.'s sale of its 50% stake in Wind Tre SpA to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. Under the terms of the approval, CK Hutchison will take over pre-existing commitments that were previously provided by VEON and CK Hutchison upon the creation of Wind Tre in 2016.

* WPP plc named Mark Read as its new CEO. Read, who will also become executive director of the WPP board, has been the company's joint COO since April.

UK AND IRELAND

* Stephen Kelly has stepped down as a director and CEO of The Sage Group PLC after reaching an agreement with the company's board. Kelly will remain available to the group until he leaves May 31, 2019.

* SoftBank Investment Advisers UK, which manages SoftBank Group Corp.'s Vision Fund, has so far paid $8 million to the fund's directors, London's The Daily Telegraph reports, citing company accounts. Of the total amount, SoftBank Investment Advisers UK's boss was paid $4 million during the fund's first 16 months in existence.

GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA

* Deutsche Telekom AG will soon launch its own voice assistant, with a retail price of €149.99. The operator will tap about 1,000 customers who will train the smart speakers as part of the first stage of the rollout.

* Deutsche Telekom also said its EntertainTV offer would now also be available as an over-the-top offering. This means that customers will be able to purchase the service without subscribing to a broadband offer from the German telecom giant.

* German public broadcaster ARD plans to revise its media library Mediathek to bundle offers from all ARD-owned channels, in time for the IFA 2018 conference, Heise reports.

* German media group Media Impact, a joint venture between Axel Springer SE and Funke Mediengruppe GmbH & Co. KGaA, has launched a marketing unit named Musik.

* Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA is increasing its efforts to recruit data specialists and relevant talent in an effort to boost its digital strategy, COO Immanuel Hermreck said.

FRANCE

* Serge Dubois, director of L'Express, owned by Altice Europe, will leve his post, Les Echos reports. The decision, prompted by disappointing progress on the three-year strategic plan set out in 2016, is expected to be announced at the company's workers' council meeting Sept. 3. Altice Europe was formerly known as Altice NV.

* Dana Hastier, director of public television channel France 3, has resigned amid a reorganization of France Télévisions SA that will eliminate channel director positions in 2019, Les Echos reports. An internal memo said Hastier wished to pursue a new direction in her career.

* Groupe Bolloré announced a 71% year-over-year drop in first-half net profit to €97 million. Turnover was up 54% at €10.87 billion, thanks to the consolidation of the Vivendi SA media group, which represents more than half of turnover at €6.46 billion.

NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM AND LUXEMBOURG

* Ziggo NV said it could take two years before HD broadcasting of regional channels is made possible, TotaalTV reports. The CDA political party in the Dutch province of Limburg reportedly requested Ziggo to speed up this process, but the Liberty Global PLC unit claims this is not possible due to capacity restrictions.

* Ziggo is also dealing with malfunctions on its video-on-demand service, Nu.nl reports. The failures started over the weekend and Ziggo is reportedly working to resolve them.

* Local radio station KB Radio will be renamed Studio Kaag en Braassem and is starting an intensive collaboration with neighboring station Studio Alphen, Media Magazine reports. Both stations and their channels will be maintained.

NORDIC COUNTRIES

* The corruption trial against several former managers of Telia Co. AB, formerly TeliaSonera, will start Sept. 4, Svenska Dagbladet reports. The managers stand accused of paying bribes of 3 billion Swedish kronor to be allowed to operate in Uzbekistan.

* TDC A/S' cable operator and content provider subsidiary YouSee A/S announced the launch of several new streaming services with content from Nordisk Film and Fox+. The company is also launching a new TV channel in collaboration with 21st Century Fox Inc.'s Fox Networks Group. YouSee added that it is launching new apps for content streaming through Apple Inc.'s Apple TV and LG TV.

* Danish fiber company Waoo A/S is launching an online TV subscription called Waoo TV Go. The offer makes it possible for customers to subscribe to a TV package without either a roof antenna, satellite receiver or cable TV.

* Nordic digital platform Mynewsdesk AB has acquired web and social monitoring tool Mention, according to a news release. Mention CEO and co-founder Matthieu Vaxelaire will become COO of the combined company and will report to CEO Mattias Malmström.

* Bonnier Magazines & Brands, a unit of Swedish media group Bonnier AB is cutting 55 full-time positions, Dagens Media reports, citing an email from CEO Lars Dahmén. Bonnier is cutting back across the unit, and both market, sales, administrative and editorial staff will be affected, Dahmén reportedly said.

SOUTHERN EUROPE

* Spanish broadcaster Mediapro and its over-the-top service beIN Connect have both entered into an agreement with sports rights organization IMG to air Serie A matches, Advanced Television reports. Mediapro will broadcast the matches through its digital terrestrial TV channel Gol, while beIN Connect will air two live matches per week.

* Amazon Spain has raised the price of its annual subscription for the Amazon Prime service to €36, from the previous rate of €19.95, Telecompaper reports. The new rates of Amazon.com Inc.'s service in Spain took effect Aug. 31 for new registrations, while changes will take effect for existing customers on Oct. 2.

* Italian operators are facing issues in meeting portability requirements since Iliad SA's launch in the country during the end of May, Telecompaper reports, citing Corriere delle Comunicazioni. The number of portability requests from subscribers is causing backlogs and is primarily affecting Vodafone Group PLC's Vodafone Italia, which is failing to meet the number of requests to Iliad, WIND Telecomunicazioni SpA and Three Italia.

EASTERN EUROPE

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is close to forming a joint venture e-commerce company with Russian internet company Mail.ru Group Ltd. and sovereign wealth fund Russian Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF, London's Financial Times reports, citing Russian officials and other people involved in the deal. The size of Alibaba's planned investment in the joint venture is still unknown, one of the sources told FT.

* VEON said in a filing that it may withdraw its offer to acquire selected Pakistani and Bangladeshi assets from Global Telecom Holding SAE anytime. VEON's filing comes shortly after Global Telecom released an announcement that the acquisition offer may not meet the required 66 2/3% vote from the shareholders.

* The Croatian Regulatory Agency for Network Activities, or HAKOM, has selected Miran Gosta to become the regulator's director for the next four years, Broadband TV News reports. Gosta has previously served as HAKOM's acting director for its technical services directorate since June.

FEATURED NEWS

MarketWeek: Apple jumps on upcoming iPhone release; Trump targets Google on Twitter: Apple took center stage for the week, as it geared up for its fall product launch and Warren Buffett upped his company's stake in the tech giant. Meanwhile, Alphabet's Google attracted criticism from President Donald Trump.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Economics of Internet: State of UK online video: subscription: Subscription streaming services are still growing in the U.K. driven mainly by investments in local programming and original content.

Global Multichannel: Global markets update — Eastern Europe and Middle East & Africa summaries: Kagan has published updated Global Multichannel & Broadband analysis for two regional summaries.

Anne Freier, Sylvia Edwards Davis, Koen Pijnappels and Esben Svendsen contributed to this report.

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