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Sogecable turns up heat in Spain’s digital TV war

MADRID — The fog is clearing from Spain’s digital TV battle. Just five days after Spanish telco Telefonica announced a digital platform in Spain, its rival, the Sogecable-owned platform Canal Satelite Digital (CSD), has declared it will start taking orders on its D-boxes from Christmas.

With two platforms being built at breakneck speed, Spain’s digital hostilities now look somewhat analogous to France’s.

A joint venture between Canal Plus France and Spanish media giant Prisa, the film and TV holding Sogecable owns both buoyant pay net Canal Plus Espana, which boasts more than 1.3 million subs, plus the analog satellite bouquet Canal Satelite.

Canal Satelite’s nearly 100,000 subs will be offered Philips’ D-boxes (as used by Canal Plus in France) at a “symbolic” price to create an instant market for its digital services.

Rather like TPS in France, the as-yet-unnamed Telefonica alliance adds Spain’s pubcasters, led by RTVE, plus Spain’s highest-rated free web Antena 3 TV and Mexico’s Televisa.

Spain’s digital struggle should turn on a race to launch and a battle for program rights.

CSD looks to win the first, having launched test trials Saturday on five channels, it plans to bow 25 channels in January.

Negotiations for pay and pay-per-view rights to U.S. movies and TV shows have, sources say, already begun with the Hollywood majors.

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