Sogecable to auction World Cup rights

Two exclusive free-to-air packages on the bidding block

MADRID -- Spanish TV giant Sogecable announced Monday it will auction off two packages of coveted exclusive free-to-air rights to the World Cup to run June 11-July 11.

The first package will consist of eight games, including the opening game and the Spanish national team's first-round games in South Africa, while the second package contains a smattering from each round, including one quarter-final, one semi-final and the final match.

The rights will be exclusive for free-to-air, though Sogecable's satcaster Digital Plus will air the games on pay TV. It was unclear if Sogecable's free-to-air channel Cuatro would bid for the packages. Sogecable sold a majority stake of Cuatro to Spain's leading broadcaster Telecinco late last year, though Sogecable maintains editorial control of the channel.

The Spanish national team won the European Cup Final in 2008 and is a favorite for this summer's World Cup.

Sogecable's debt-ridden parent company, Prisa, said last week it expects to triple profits in 2010 to some 180 million euros following a merger with U.S. investment holding Liberty Acquisition. But a court ruling last month that Prisa should pay Spanish cable operator nearly 90 million euros for damages and unfulfilled contracts could threaten that figure.