Sogecable, Prisa soccer war over

After litigation, deal runs through 2011-12 season

MADRID -- Mediapro and Prisa's film and TV branch Sogecable announced Friday an agreement that ends their rights war after two years of litigation between Spain's two media titans over lucrative rights to Spain's professional soccer league and a day after pooh-poohing reports of a merger of their TV assets.

The deal, which runs through the 2011-12 season, sees Sogecable's satellite platform secure exclusive rights to a Sunday night match on its premium channel and offer non-exclusively all the remaining matches not deemed of "national interest" on pay-per-view. Spanish law requires "national interest" games be available on a free-to-air channel.

The announcement comes a day after Spain's leading business daily reported the two sides were looking to set up a holding to pool their broadcast rights, with a second phase scheduled to merge the two company's respective free-to-air channels. Mediapro owns La Sexta (7% audience share) and Sogecable owns Cuatro (8.8% audience share).

Mediapro owns the lion's share of rights to the soccer league's matches, but Prisa owns the country's primary pay-per-view outlet, the satellite platform Digital Plus. Prisa has been unsuccessful in its attempts to sell off the platform and is weighed down with Sogecable's estimated €890 million ($1.25 billion) debt, while La Sexta has pledged a reported €2 billion ($2.81 billion) to maintain its sports rights.

While Mediapro aired nearly all the games of this year's season -- which finished this past weekend -- on La Sexta, Prisa has alleged its rival's ownership of the rights is illegal because it broke a previous contract. The court is not to rule until late next year.
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