Court rules on Spanish soccer rights conflict

MADRID –A Madrid court fined Spanish media firm Mediapro E97 million ($131 million) on Thursday after ruling that it exceeded the bounds of its contract with sports rights broker Audiovisual Sport by negotiating directly with soccer clubs for rights to the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

The court ordered Mediapro to pay $84 million to Audiovisual Sport, owned by entertainment conglom Prisa, plus $47 million for breach of contract.

The court argued that Mediapro was under contract to Audiovisual Sport from 2006 and was not free to approach the clubs, which usually sold rights via Audiovisual Sport.

The ruling obliges Mediapro to cede the rights to the games of first and second division teams to Audiovisual Sport.

Mediapro will appeal, meaning the case is likely to drag on for another couple of years.

“This is a first-instance decision that still has a long passage before becoming a final ruling,” said Barcelona-based Mediapro, adding that the ruling would not affect its management of soccer rights.

Mediapro’s assets include equity in broadcaster La Sexta and pay TV soccer channel Gol Television.

In June, Prisa and Mediapro agreed that Prisa’s satcaster Digital Plus could broadcast Spanish soccer league matches from the 2009-10 to 2011-12 seasons on a nonexclusive basis, ending a two-year war over rights in the soccer-mad country.

“The soccer war isn’t fully re-opened,” an analyst said. “Prisa’s financial situation is too delicate to allow it to bid for future soccer rights.”

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