A Comcast technician in Reading, Pennsylvania. Image Credit: Bloomberg

London: US cable giant Comcast outbid Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox in a blind auction for the European TV operator Sky on Saturday, after a titanic battle between two traditional media empires.

Britain's takeover regulator said the secret process ended with Comcast valuing Sky at £30.4 billion ($39.7 billion, 33.8 billion euros).

Sky's highest offer was worth £27.6 billion.

The pan-European paid TV operator's shareholders will have until October 11 to decide which offer to accept.

Sky's subscription base of 23 million and rights to English Premier League football make it one of Europe's most profitable and powerful TV companies.

Media behemoths

The auction pitted two traditional US media behemoths against each other, as they scramble to boost content to keep viewers from switching to streaming services such as Netflix.

Saturday's outcome dealt a potentially fatal blow to Murdoch's attempts to acquire the 61 percent stake in Sky he does not already have but has long sought.

Murdoch, an Australian-born US citizen, made an initial attempt in 2010-11 but his efforts were undermined by a phone hacking scandal at his British newspaper holdings.

The two-year battle for Sky has also reshaped the US media-entertainment landscape by allowing Walt Disney Co. to complete its mega-merger with Fox.

Saturday's auction thus turned into a proxy battle between Comcast and Disney for Sky.

Comcast's holdings already include Universal Studios and the US television channels NBC and CNBC.

Disney's empire stretches from its film studio and theme parks to the US television network NBC and the various ESPN sport channels.

Critics had argued that allowing Murdoch — who owns major British newspaper titles The Times and The Sun — full control of Sky News would have given him too much influence in the UK news business.

Fox had proposed remedying this by sell the rolling TV news channel to Disney should it win full control of Sky.

Total Secrecy

It is rare for a takeover of this size and impact to be determined in a blind 24-hour auction held in total secrecy.

Britain's Takeover Panel decided this course after neither offer was deemed to be final and it sought "an orderly framework for the resolution of this competitive situation".

The Takeover Panel does not declare an auction winner but simply states the size of the offers made.

It set October 11 as the deadline "on which either offeror's offer can become or can be declared unconditional" by shareholders.

Sky ended the day Friday trading at £15.85 a share -- below Comcast's Saturday offer price of £17.28 per share.