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Spanish satellite merger talks crash

Breakdown latest European digital travail

MADRID — Negotiations in Spain to create a single digital platform appear to have broken down — at least for the foreseeable future.

In the latest turn to Europe’s dizzy digital TV dance, Pedro Perez, the president of digital satcaster Via Digital, wrote a letter to the European Commission on March 3 informing it of “a definitive break in talks between Telefonica and Prisa to create a joint digital operator in Spain.”

Spanish telco Telefonica and publishing empire Prisa are lead shareholders in Spanish digital satcasters Via Digital and CanalSatelite Digital, respectively.

Perez went on to request that the commission take a formal position on the pay-per-view soccer exclusive held by CSD until the end of the 2000-2001 soccer season.

For Sogecable’s part, Javier Diez de Polanco, who replaced Juan Luis Cebrian as Sogecable managing director in December 1998, flew to Los Angeles in late February to introduce himself to the majors and, reportedly, inform them that CSD would be going it alone.

Telefonica and Sogecable have broken off talks to merge their digital operators once before, in late September 1998.

The reasons appear to be the same this time around: radical disagreement on the relative value of the two platforms.

Spanish analysts had been confidently predicting a merger accord by Easter.

While none discounted an eventual merger, they now suggest that it’s not on the immediate horizon.

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