Sogecable, Telefonica team flexes

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MADRID -- Four years after the merger that pooled film and TV powerhouse Sogecable's satellite platform with that of rival Spanish telecom giant Telefonica, the two companies announced a new agreement Wednesday.

The deal will see the two offer joint telecommunication and digital satellite television services as well as collaborating to buy pay TV content for the Spanish market.

As of Nov. 30, Telefonica and Sogecable will offer, through their respective marketing networks, a package tabbed "Trio+" that will include Telefonica's Duo package, including ADSL and telephony, and Sogecable's Digital+ pay TV service.

The launch will arrive on the exact date that Spanish antitrust authorities set as the end of the moratorium on Sogecable offering a triple-play package, which fledgling cable operators found an unfair advantage for the dominant player.

In 2003, Sogecable and Telefonica sent shockwaves through the Spanish pay TV and telecom sectors when they joined their respective satellite platforms to form the monopoly Digital+. Spanish authorities set a series of restrictions at the time, which included the moratorium on including Digital+ in a triple-play package.

Under the four-year, renewable, nonexclusive agreement, Telefonica and Sogecable will offer a competitive "Triple Play" in which Sogecable will be able to offer ADSL to its present and future television customers.

Telefonica will complement the coverage of its cable TV service, Imagenio, with satellite pay TV in the areas that Imagenio is not available. Imagenio, which offers ADSL, telephony and pay TV, boasts about 420,000 clients and is available to about 60% of Spaniards.

In addition, Sogecable and Telefonica will collaborate to buy pay TV content in Spain. Sogecable -- which holds the lion's share of output deals with the U.S. majors -- will provide content to Telefonica.

A Sogecable spokeswoman said it is too soon to discuss pricing packages. Both companies will invoice separately, make their own installations and provide their own customer service.
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