Row erupts over Spain's soccer TV rights

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MADRID -- Only days before Spain's professional soccer league is due to kick off, sports rights broker Audiovisual Sport has announced it is suing Mediapro -- holder of the lion's share of rights -- for alleged nonpayment of €58 million ($78.3 million).

The figure, revealed Tuesday by Audiovisual Sport, corresponds to a portion of the free-to-air rights for the season set to begin Saturday as well as following seasons, which Mediapro bought and sold to its free-to-air channel La Sexta.

Audiovisual Sport additionally asserted that rights to Saturday's match are now available due the unfulfilled clauses of the contract. Mediapro countered immediately, saying that La Sexta will air the game between Seville and Getafe as planned.

Audiovisual Sport is controlled by rival broadcaster Sogecable, which has held the rights until now and aired nearly all the games on its pay platform, Digital Plus.

Mediapro -- which owns rights to 39 of the league's 42 soccer teams -- fired back, calling the legal action a "pantomime" and claiming that Sogecable owes it $43.2 million.

It is highly unlikely that the feud will deprive Spaniards of watching the league's matches, given their extremely popular standing. The two sides are expected to be forced to reach some agreement.

As it stands now, Mediapro's free-to-air channel La Sexta airs a Saturday night match, while Sogecable's pay platform, Digital Plus, offers the remainder of the matches during the week.

Sogecable's free-to-air channel, Cuatro, is barred from competing for the Saturday night match by antitrust laws.
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