Disney takes piece of Spain digital net

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BARCELONA, Spain -- Disney has acquired a strategic 20% stake in digital terrestrial television channel Net TV, taking a first step into Spain's DTT market, the company said Wednesday.

The deal gives Disney's Spanish subsidiary a long-term strategic alliance and satisfies Net TV's controlling stakeholder Vocento's objectives outlined in January, namely to increase the value of its license -- one of six granted by the Spanish government in 2000.

Disney offers the free-to-air nationwide channel its expertise to develop compelling content and drive distribution, while the deal gives Disney a new distribution outlet for its present programming.

The move also represents a vote of confidence for the growing DTT market in Spain, with 23.4% penetration.

"Our strategy is to seek the widest possible distribution for our programming and this agreement is another step towards that goal," said John Hardie, executive vp and managing director Walt Disney Television Europe, Middle East and Africa. "We believe that DTT offers an excellent business opportunity for the future and we are delighted to cement our presence with this deal."

Vocento, which holds a 55% stake in Net TV, also owns a 13% stake in Spain's most profitable commercial channel, Telecinco. The group, which owns a dozen newspapers in Spain, must choose between its two television stakes before the 2010 analog blackout in Spain. The deal with Disney could be seen as a first step toward bolstering the Net TV value prior to a sale.

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