Soccer war breaks out in Spain

Telecinco and Antena 3 take La Sexta to court

MADRID — Spanish webs Telecinco and Antena 3 have announced legal action after fellow terrestial broadcaster La Sexta confirmed Wednesday that it had sub-licensed rights to the Spanish team’s World Cup matches to Cuatro, another free-to-air network.

Under deal, Cuatro and La Sexta transmit these games simultaneously. Cuatro will also simulcast the Cup’s opening match, semi-final and final.

A World Cup spat has been brewing since late March when La Sexta snagged World Cup rights from Spain’s Telefonica Contenidos for a reported Euros 90 million ($114.9 million).

Launched March 27, La Sexta has battled to extend its signal reach to most of Spain. Justifying the Cuatro sale, La Sexta argues that its analog and DTT signals now have 80% penetration, but many Spaniards won’t have time to adjust sets and aerials in time to watch the World Cup games.

Under Spanish law, the Spanish team’s World Cup matches are deemed “general interest” TV: their broadcaster must ensure they can be seen all over Spain.

For Telecinco and Antena 3, La Sexta’s sublicensing deal should have been decided by public competition not private contract. They will file a preliminary injunction to halt the sale.

All of which leaves Spaniards asking not if their team will win the World Cup, but if they’ll get to see its matches.

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