Premiere wins back soccer rights

Watchdog clears Arena deal

BERLIN — Pay TV broadcaster Premiere will again broadcast live Bundesliga soccer this year after Germany’s antitrust watchdog greenlit a deal with former rival feevee channel Arena.

The ruling, which comes just weeks before premier league soccer resumes in Germany, follows Arena’s recent decision to fold its production operations after just a year on the air, leaving Premiere as the only feevee power in Germany.

The federal cartel office agreed on Wednesday to allow Premiere to take over Arena’s lucrative top league soccer rights through June 2009.

Unity Media, Germany’s second-largest cable operator, launched Arena last year after acquiring the 2007-09 Bundesliga rights from under Premiere’s nose for $300 million per season. That coup cost Premiere dearly — the paybox’s share price plunged 45% to an all-time low after losing soccer in December 2005.

Premiere shares rose 4.4% to E20.03 ($27.58) on Wednesday following news of the agreement.

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