Spain inches closer to DTT approval

Service awaiting OK from Spanish parliament

MADRID -- Spain came a step closer to approving pay digital terrestrial television Thursday, paving the way for Mediapro's already announced soccer channel Gol TV to launch as a pay DTT channel.

The Spanish cabinet approved pay DTT service for the country, but the initiative must be passed by parliament. It was unclear if that approval would pass before Spain's professional soccer season begins Aug. 29.

Mediapro, which owns the controlling stake in free-to-air channel La Sexta, owns the lion's share of the coveted soccer league rights, paying upwards of $800 million for the upcoming league games.

Thursday's move strikes at the heart of rival media group Prisa's efforts to maintain its hold on the soccer season. Prisa owns satellite platform Digital Plus and has its own soccer channel, offered in a premium package.

Though Mediapro owns the soccer rights it had signed a deal with Prisa earlier this summer, allowing Digital Plus to offer league matches.

Lambasting the government for interference in the market and politically supporting its rival group, Prisa said it would take action against the measure and reminded of a similar instance in 1997 when a different government tried to intervene in the market by decree and was later ordered to pay 24 million euros to Sogecable in retribution.

"Prisa rejects the use, once again, by the government of Rodriguez Zapatero of an urgent measure, without objective justification whatsoever to regulate particular aspects of the audiovisual model," Spain's biggest media group said. "Prisa will exercise all the actions in its power to defend its rights, especially given the existing precedent."