Gallic court puts off soccer ruling

Two companies to share pay-per-view rights

PARIS — Control of Gallic soccer rights remained in the air Tuesday when the Paris Court of Appeals delayed its verdict in a quarrel between paybox Canal Plus and satcaster TPS over the French Soccer League’s top matches.

Vivendi Universal subsid Canal Plus and Gallic webs M6 and TF1, who own TPS, have been duking it out since November over the league’s decision to accept Canal Plus’ $480 million bid for the rights for the 2004-7 seasons.

TPS complained to the Gallic competition watchdog and Canal Plus brought its case to the court, which in February asked two mediators to find a deal acceptable to both.

“There will be an examination of the preliminary agreement, and we will give a decision on whether we approve it on April 29,” appeals Judge Alain Lacabarats told a hearing.

The full terms of the agreement are not known. However, the French Soccer League (LPF) said on April 11 that it had agreed to terms, which include extending the existing contract by one year. This would give Canal Plus the right to broadcast two live first-division matches a week; TPS would have the right to broadcast one. The two would share pay-per-view rights.

Some 25% of Canal Plus’ aud subscribes for the soccer, making the bid a matter of survival for the ailing paybox.

But TPS, which has yet to break even, stands to lose 230,000 subs over the next 18 months if it has no prime soccer to offer. Pricey sports rights have already bankrupted several Euro cable operators.

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