Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is reportedly close to acquiring a minority stake in Kirch Media, raising speculation that the German media giant will in turn become a shareholder in Murdoch's proposed international pay-TV platform Sky Global Networks.

Telecom Italia may also take a stake in Sky Global in return for its 50% stake in Italian pay-TV platform Stream.

According to German newspaper Suedeutsche Zeitung, News Corp is paying up to $236m (DM500m) for a small percentage of Kirch Media which houses Kirch Group's free TV interests and rights trading activities. The Kirch Group would reportedly use the sale to buy publishing giant Springer Verlag's stake in Kirch Media early next year.

Murdoch is currently bundling all his pay-TV assets - including Stream, the UK's BSkyB, Asian platform Star TV and SkyPerfecTV in Japan - into Sky Global ahead of a float in the US. Partners in individual platforms are being offered stakes in Sky Global - sometimes in return for their existing holdings. News Corp owns 24% of KirchPayTV, which controls the Premiere World pay-TV platform in Germany, leading to speculation that Kirch Media will be offered a share in the new company.

This strategy may also be played out in Italy where Telecom Italia is considering the exchange of its 50% stake in the ailing Stream platform for 2% in Sky Global. According to Italian press reports Telecom Italia has concluded that pay-TV isn't compatible with its other activities and its direct involvement in Stream is a drain on resources.

Vivendi chief Jean-Marie Messier is also considering taking a stake in Sky Global - in return for Vivendi's 20% stake in BSkyB - but has stated that he can't invest in a service that competes with Canal Plus' Italian platform Telepiu. The conflict has lead observers to speculate that Stream and Telepiu will merge.