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Soccer club nets its own cable web

Channel to air interviews, profiles, practice sessions

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s soccer-mad population of 36 million is about to get unprecedented access to the country’s favorite soccer club, Boca Juniors, on a new cable channel: Boca TV.

Launching Nov. 1, Boca TV is the first soccer club feevee in Argentina and the Americas and the fifth in the world.

Modeled after the payboxes of England’s Manchester United and Spain’s Real Madrid, Boca TV will air coach and player interviews and profiles, live practice sessions, team news and programs about the club.

The net doesn’t have rights to live matches of Argentina’s first division league or international tournaments. However, it will air live reserve-team matches and one-off games and may bid for rights to future tournaments.

Buenos Aires-based Pramer will handle ad sales, distribution and production, with the aim of securing carriage on the basic lineup of cable and satellite nets throughout Latin America. It is in negotiations for carriage with, among others, Argentina’s Cablevision (indirectly controlled by Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst and Liberty Media) and Multicanal (Grupo Clarin) as well as DirecTV Latin America (Hughes Electronics and Cisneros Group).

Owned by Liberty Media, Pramer is the largest pay TV distributor and programmer in Latin America, with 23 channels reaching 12 million homes there and in Spain and the U.S.

While financial terms of the Boca venture weren’t disclosed, the club will take a share of ad sales and carriage fees, and Pramer will cover production costs.

The project is the latest venture for first division league leader Boca as it seeks fresh profits beyond that of match-day food sales, membership fees and ticket sales.

It has launched a magazine, opened a theme bar in Buenos Aires and created 800 Boca-branded products, from baby bottles to insurance policies and shirts. It also has struck lucrative sponsorship deals, the latest with U.S. beverage giant PepsiCo.

Yet Boca TV is heading into a highly competitive industry.

While soccer programs generally attract big audiences, there are many of them in Argentina and the region.

ESPN, Fox Sports, local heavyweight TyC Sports and two more sports nets are vying for viewers and ad sales in Argentina against a heap of soccer shows on broadcast TV.

This fat supply of sports programming in Latin America’s most-cabled market could make it difficult for Boca to compete — it was one of the reasons behind the crash of the Pan-American Sports Network in 2002.

However, the club can tap its impressive fan base of 13 million in Argentina alone who are sure to tune in.

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