LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch’s Sky has tightened its grip on English Premier League soccer rights at a lower price than it currently pays, boosting its shares early on Wednesday.
The positive outcome for the European pay-TV company could strengthen the hand of shareholders who want Twenty-First Century Fox to raise its offer to buy the 61 percent of the group it does not already own, analysts said.
Disney also had an interest in the result because if its deal to buy Fox assets is cleared, it will end up owning either all of Sky, or the 39 percent stake that Fox currently holds.
Shares in Sky rose 3.2 percent in early deals to a two-year high of 10.95 pounds, exceeding the 10.75 pounds per share that Fox agreed to pay for the group in December 2016.
Sky’s pay-TV and broadband rival BT fared less well, winning the British rights to fewer games than it has currently has, although its total bill is slightly lower.
BT’s shares were trading up 0.4 percent.
Of the seven packages of matches on offer for three seasons from 2019/20, Sky won four for a total outlay of 3.58 billion pounds, while BT will pay 885 million pounds for its one package.
Two of the seven packages, both of which involved rights to simultaneous screening of a block of matches, remained unsold at this point, indicating that the Premier League had not met its reserve price.
Analysts at Jefferies said Sky, which has broadcast Premier League soccer since the early 1990s, was the winner in the auction.
“Retaining the bulk of English Premier League rights was key for Sky to maintain its premium position, but to do so and secure a lower outlay is a bonus,” they said. (Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Keith Weir)