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TM launches European basketball tourney

Top 24 teams of continent to play in Euroleague

MADRID — Why buy the rights to one athlete when you can get 24 teams for more or less the same price?

Over the summer, Telefonica Media (TM), the film and TV conglom of telco Telefonica, was rumored to be prepared to pony up Pta5 billion ($27.9 million) for the TV and merchandising rights to games in which popular Real Madrid soccer star Luis Figo played. That deal never came off.

On Wednesday, TM announced a far bolder move, creating a new European basketball tournament called the Euroleague, featuring 24 of the continent’s top clubs.

TM will put up the annual prize money. It will also co-organize the games with the Union of European Basketball Leagues (ULEB) and take 70% of TV, merchandising and Internet rights to the championship.

The clubs, which include Spain’s top four — Real Madrid, Barcelona, Estudiantes and TAU — have committed not to appear in any other international competition.

TM’s move reflects the fact that, in basketball as in soccer, it’s the top international games that attract the audiences. It will also allow TM’s satcaster Via Digital to mount a challenge in basketball to rival Sogecable’s Canal Satelite Digital, which is making a large impact by televising Spain’s basketball league games.

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