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Sat overlap sends Via back to Kirch

World Cup exclusivity in question

MADRID — More pain for the cash-strapped Kirch Group: Spanish satcaster Via Digital is attempting to renegotiate the price it paid the German TV giant for 2002 World Cup soccer rights.

The Admira-controlled digital pay TV operator ponied up a reported $143 million for all Spanish media rights to the tourney in 1999.

But German pubcasters ARD-ZDF have paid for Astra-transmitted analog satellite rights to the World Cup — which means the matches can be seen for free in Spain by anyone who owns a satellite dish aimed at Astra. Overspill from its analog sister reaches northern Spain, including Majorca and Ibiza, both German retirement hubs.

Tech problems debated

ARD and ZDF still are debating whether, out of principle, pubcasters should decrypt their digital signal and whether they have the technology to limit a digital signal to Germany. But at the moment there appears to be no way to limit analog overspill.

However, Kirch is eager to keep Via’s cash. “We see no conflict between our contracts with Via Digital and ARD-ZDF,” a Kirch rep said.

That just isn’t good enough for Via. “We paid for exclusivity and mean to re-enforce it,” a Via source said. Having lost $297.6 million in 2001, Via is eager to save money. Trouble is, so is Kirch.

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