Hispanic media giants feuding over internet rights

Nearly six months after settling out of court, Hispanic media giants Televisa and Univision head back to court Tuesday to determine whether the Mexican media conglom has the right to distribute its programming online in the U.S.

Univision, which owes its powerhouse status in the U.S. Hispanic market to programming from Televisa, contends that their long-standing 1992 Programming License Agreement explicitly bars Televisa from offering its programs in the U.S.

“Televisa does not have the right to compete with Univision in the U.S. by broadcasting over the Internet programs it has licensed to Univision under the PLA,” said a Univision rep. “We are confident that we will prevail at trial once we present our case.”

Televisa declined to comment.

Televisa chairman-CEO Emilio Azcarraga Jean will take the stand in Los Angeles Federal Court while former Univision owner-chair Jerrold Perenchio, who is ill, will testify by deposition. Other execs expected to testify are Televisa exec VP Alfonso de Angoitia and Univision prexy-chief operating officer Ray Rodriguez.

A long-simmering legal feud between the two companies abruptly ended Jan. 22 just as Azcarraga was about to testify at the jury trial.

Televisa had charged Univision with material breach of contract, claiming $134 million in unpaid royalties, and sought to end the 25-year programming pact, which expires in 2017.

Parties agreed to amend their agreement with concessions on both sides after an all-night bargaining session between de Angoitia and Univision chairman Haim Saban, who leads the consortium that acquired Univision in 2006.

However, the issue of U.S. Internet rights was set aside, to be resolved at a separate court date. The judge postponed the original March 3 date for personal reasons. There will be no jury this time. Both companies have agreed to present post-trial briefs to the judge, who is expected to rule on the dispute by late July.

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