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BSkyB looking to buy into Italian and German pay-TV markets

BSkyB's plan to acquire two European pay-TV companies would realize the goal of Rupert Murdoch.BSkyB's plan to acquire two European pay-TV companies would realize the goal of Rupert Murdoch.
BSkyB's plan to acquire two European pay-TV companies would realize the goal of Rupert Murdoch.

FORTUNE — British Sky Broadcasting Group, a cable television company partly-owned by Rupert Murdoch, is looking to buy two other European broadcasters in an effort to extend its pay-TV business across Europe.

BSkyB (BSYBY) said on Monday that it is in preliminary talks with 21st Century Fox (FOX) to acquire its pay-TV assets in Germany and Italy. If successful, the deal would create a broadcasting behemoth with about 20 million subscribers, nearly doubling BSkyB’s 10.5 million customers.

BSkyB wants to acquire Fox’s 57% stake in Sky Deutschland, worth about $4.4 billion based on the company’s closing share price last week, as well as the whole of Sky Italia. Murdoch owns stakes in both Sky Deutchland and Sky Italia, and has long wanted to unite them under the BSkyB banner. An acquisition by BSkyB would continue a trend of consolidation in Europe’s media sector.

“Maybe it thinks it has to bulk up in the face of that,” said Oliver Ralph, deputy head of Lex at the Financial Times.

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Murdoch’s Fox currently owns a 39% stake in BSkyB. Whether or not Fox would want to acquire more shares of a bulked-up BSkyB is open to question, said Ralph. Murdoch tried to acquire the part of the British broadcaster that he did not already own in 2011 but gave up amid allegations of misconduct at News Corp.’s UK newspapers.

A bigger BSkyB could generate cost savings in product development and have more clout when bidding for sports or movie contracts. But only Germany would promise much growth: The number of Italian pay-TV subscribers has declined over the past three years.