Prisa, Mediapro seek peace deal

Battling Spanish media groups may team up

MADRID — Spanish media congloms Prisa and Mediapro are in talks to pool their TV rights and create a joint broadcast group, Spanish financial daily Expansion reported Thursday.

The pact, crucially, could finally see peace break out between Prisa and Mediapro in Spain’s so-called soccer wars.

According to Expansion, Prisa and Mediapro — a controlling shareholder in web La Sexta — are studying the creation of a joint holding. In a first phase, the holding would group their TV rights; in a second, their stakes in the Prisa-owned broadcast network Cuatro and La Sexta.

The key rights question turns on soccer.

Mediapro has swept up rights to Spanish soccer league games for the 2009-10 season — illegally, Prisa claims. But Prisa urgently needs soccer games to feed its premium paybox and pay-per-view services on satcaster Digital Plus.

The potential partners are seeking finance from the Santander bank, and La Caixa and Caja Madrid savings banks to capitalize the holding.

Some kind of settlement between Prisa and Mediapro makes urgent economic sense.

Facing a Euros 5 billion ($6.65 billion) debt mountain, Prisa needs clarity over Digital Plus’ continuing access to soccer games as it attempts to sell the pay TV service. Mediapro needs access to Digital Plus’ two million subs to amortize the huge sums its committed for soccer rights — reported as being $2.6 billion by Expansion.

Over-extended, both Prisa and Mediapro need to sue for soccer peace to establish a more viable business model going forward.

“The end of the soccer war could prove very positive to Prisa, increasing its chances of selling off Digital Plus at an attractive price,” said one analyst.

Capitalization of a new audiovisual holding would also give valuable new liquidity to both partners.

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