LONDON — Comcast has emerged as the top bidder for European broadcaster Sky after a rare auction held by British regulators.

After three rounds of secret bidding on Friday and Saturday, Comcast offered the higher price of 17.28 pounds ($22.58) per share for Sky, the equivalent of nearly 30 billion pounds ($39 billion). Rival 21st Century Fox offered 15.67 ($20.47) per share.

In a statement, Sky recommended that shareholders accept Comcast’s offer and sell their shares immediately. Comcast said it hoped to complete the takeover by the end of October.

“Sky is a wonderful company with a great platform, tremendous brand and accomplished management team,” Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally.”

Philadelphia-based Comcast is one of the largest cable television providers in the U.S. Around 29 million customers get cable television, internet access and other services from Comcast.

Britain’s regulator, the Takeover Panel, set up the auction to reduce uncertainty for Sky after months of offers and counteroffers from the American media giants. Sky is Europe’s largest pay-television operator, with 22.5 million customers in seven countries and popular programming including English Premier League soccer and “Game of Thrones.”

Fox owns 39 percent of Sky. It now must decide whether to sell its stake or remain a minority shareholder.