Startup gets Spanish rights to motor racing

MADRID — Startup broadcaster La Sexta has snagged Spanish rights to Formula One motor racing for five seasons starting in 2009. Value of the deal was not announced.

Auction was coordinated by Catalan rights-broker Mediapro, which is a partner at film and TV giant Imagina, La Sexta’s controlling shareholder.

Last May, Mediapro took Spanish rights from Formula One topper Bernie Ecclestone, paying a reported e200 million ($306 million) for the five seasons.

Formula One races have drawn high ratings in Spain since the now two-time champion driver Fernando Alonso broke into the competition in 2001.

Brazil’s Grand Prix, the last race in the 2007 championship, reached a 61.4% share and more than 9 million viewers last October for Telecinco. The Mediaset-controlled web owns Formula One rights till the end of the 2008 season.

The Formula One deal strengthens La Sexta’s standing as Spain’s undisputed numero uno free-to-air sports channel. Sexta airs several soccer franchises, such as Spanish league matches, the UEFA Cup and England’s FA Cup.

It also owns European and World Championships basketball rights.

Launched in March 2006, La Sexta has rapidly raised its national audience share, scoring 5.2% in February. It aims to reach 6% by the end of this year.

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