News Corp.'s TV operator now Sky Deutschland

BERLIN — News Corp.’s German pay TV operator Premiere is set to be rebranded Sky Deutschland, following the convention set up by the conglom for its British paybox BSkyB and Sky Italia.

News Corp. declined to comment Thursday on industry reports that renaming Germany’s biggest feevee platform was a done deal.

Premiere’s share price jumped more than 9% to a day’s high of $2.90 on growing speculation that something was afoot before falling to $2.58, down 3% on the opening price of $2.72.

Early reports of a BSkyB takeover of Premiere are wide of the mark, according to sources.

Premiere is likely to be re-dubbed at its annual meeting in June. German press reports cited a company memo distributed in April that stated the business was not dependent on the Premiere brand, making an eventual name change likely.

Premiere was formed in 1999 following the merger of DF1, a pay TV service started by the now defunct Kirch Group, and Premiere, a rival operator owned by CLT/Ufa (now the RTL Group).

Kirch took control of the merged pay TV platform but the investment proved fatal for the media giant — the money-losing operation eventually triggered the collapse of the Kirch Group in 2002.

Equity investment firm Permira breathed new life into Premiere after acquiring it in 2003.

News Corp. began acquiring Premiere shares last year and now holds 30% of the company, making it the biggest shareholder.

In an executive shuffle last fall, News Corp. installed Mark Williams — previously the group’s finance chief for Europe and Asia — as Premiere CEO and manned senior positions with top brass from Sky Italia.

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