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Mediaset goes to court over World Cup

Italian TV group claims Sky Italia breached Euro regulations

Italo TV group Mediaset has asked an international court to arbitrate in its dispute with rival satcaster Sky Italia over lucrative pay TV rights for soccer World Cup coverage this summer.

The broadcast group, owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, claims that its arch rival, controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, purchased the rights in breach of European regulations.

Sky Italia bought pay TV rights to transmit the soccer from South Africa this summer from pubcaster RAI, for e130 million ($173 million). RAI retained rights to air key matches.

“Mediaset has started an action before the Intl. Chamber of Commerce in Paris against the missed sale of rights for the digital terrestrial platform,” a Mediaset spokeswoman said Thursday. Sky Italia has declined to comment.

The clash is the latest in a series of battles between warring moguls Berlusconi and Murdoch.

Mediaset VP and Berlusconi scion Pier Silvio recently said in newspaper interview that soccer is one of the key pillars in its efforts to boost pay TV subscribers.

But it is unclear whether the French court can make its decision quickly enough to allow Mediaset to put in an alternative bid for the World Cup rights.

Meanwhile, Sky Italia has asked the European Commission to allow it to bid in Italy’s last sale of digital terrestrial TV assets and enter a booming market led by Mediaset. The EU is expected to decide on this by mid-April.

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