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Spanish giants kick off soccer war

Sogecable battles Mediapro for TV rights

MADRID — A new soccer war has broken out in Spain between Sogecable, the country’s biggest pay TV operator, and Spanish production and services giant Mediapro.

On Thursday evening, in the presence of Ramon Calderon and Joan Laporta, prexies of Real Madrid and Barcelona soccer clubs, Mediapro’s top execs Jaume Roures and Tatxo Benet announced that they had tied down TV rights to 39 Spanish soccer teams.

Two hours later, Sogecable, which controls soccer rights, declared that it would file criminal charges against Roures and any other party supporting its claims.

Via soccer rights brokering company Audiovisual Sport, Sogecable asserted that it holds down “numerous contracts with soccer clubs running through 2013.”

Sogecable’s strident reaction to Mediapro’s staged announcement sets the scene for what looks like a long-term soccer spatfest between Spain’s two biggest media giants.

At stake is Sogecable’s continuing dominance of pay TV, for which it needs exclusive soccer rights, and the market growth of start-up broadcaster La Sexta, in which Mediapro has a controlling stake.

If Mediapro manages to exploit rights to the swathe of soccer clubs it has announced, it is likely to charge a huge price for the commercialization in Spain’s pay TV and video-on-demand distribution, which, Roures said, is their natural market.

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