November 25, 2008 / 12:50 PM / 11 years ago

ESPN tops Premiere in Bundesliga rights sale: report

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - ESPN, Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) sports cable television network, has made a better offer than German pay-TV operator Premiere PREGn.DE in an auction for rights to show live premier-league soccer, a German daily said.

Hamburger Abendblatt reported on Tuesday without citing sources that ESPN had made a better offer, but added that Premiere may still increase its bid in an attempt to win the rights.

Premiere, which shows movies, documentaries, hit drama series such as “Lost” and adult entertainment, is saddled with net debt of 307 million euros ($395.2 million) and is highly dependent on the rights to Bundesliga soccer, Germany’s most popular sport.

ESPN has said it was actively looking for new broadcasting rights internationally.

The deadline for the rights auction ended last week and German soccer league DFL is due to announce the winner on Friday. A spokeswoman for DFL, which auctions the rights, said the league would not comment on who was bidding.

DFL said last week it had received 19 bids.

Premiere failed to secure the rights at the last auction in 2005 after losing out to cable operator UnityMedia. It now shows live Bundesliga matches under an accord with UnityMedia, which said last week it was not interested in exclusive, national rights for Bundesliga soccer.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp NWSa.N owns 25 percent of Premiere.

On Monday, Fininvest FIN.UL, the family holding company of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said that it had increased its stake in Premiere to 3.13 percent from less than 3 percent.

Reporting by Nicola Leske; editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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