Spanish indulgence

Pair need EU OK for single digital operation

MADRID — Spain’s digital platforms have begun talks to seek EU approval for a single operator in Spain.

At stake is the future of operators CanalSatelite Digital (CSD) and Via Digital, who have signed licensing deals worth an estimated $1.5 billion to the U.S. majors and local distributors.

Power meeting

Jesus Polanco and Juan Villalonga, the chairmen of Sogecable and Telefonica, huddled last week with Karol Van Miert, EU competition commissioner, to sound out conditions for EU assent on a joint operator.

Controlled by Canal Plus and Spain’s Prisa, conglom Sogecable owns CSD, which has 530,000 subs. Spanish telco Telefonica has a lead 35% stake in Via, which boasts 200,000-300,000 subs.

Battle scars

On July 21, Sogecable and Telefonica ended a two-year digital battle, announcing plans to integrate CSD and Via.

While Sogecable and Telefonica will present a formal application for an EU go-ahead in late September, Van Miert reportedly declared that EU approval would rest on whether the alliance allows “the digital TV market to remain open” for other operators.

Sogecable and Telefonica look likely to rest their case on at least three contentions: the Spanish market’s inability to support two profitable platforms; their willingness to share pay-TV soccer rights with other pay-TV players; and stiff future competition from Spain’s private cable operators.

Telecom Italia and Spanish electricity companies Endesa and Union Fenosa, who partner in Spain’s second basic telephony operator Retevision, mopped up most of the private cable TV franchises offered this year.

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