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Political blurbs lift Televisa, TV Azteca

Analysts said TV sales at both nets benefited from ads

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s top two nets, world’s largest Spanish-lingo broadcaster, Grupo Televisa, and TV Azteca, reported strong second quarters boosted by heavy political advertising.

TV Azteca reported Tuesday record net sales, up 7% to $203 million year on year in the period ended June 30. It cited high ratings for reality skein “La academia,” which trounced Televisa’s “Big Brother” in competing Sunday night slots.

Casting a pall over results is the Monday U.S. civil trial of net’s founder and director-CEO, Ricardo Salinas, on fraud charges related to a 2003 debt deal. TV Azteca withdrew its shares from New York trading Monday. Move will allow Salinas to remain in control of net whatever the outcome of the trial. Legal costs totaled $5 million during the quarter.

Earnings were up nearly 8% to $46 million. Sales at U.S. network Azteca America rose 8% to $10 million and company said it expected to nearly double advertising clients to 140 during the current upfront season.

Programming exports were down 40% to $3 million compared with $5 million in the same quarter 2004.

TV Azteca’s much bigger rival, media conglom Grupo Televisa, reported second-quarter net revenue up 6.5% year on year to $729 million due to higher ad and satellite TV income.

Televisa’s earnings rose 165% to $118.5 million. Sales at the broadcaster, whose telenovelas dominate primetime slots, rose 7.5% to $415 million.

Analysts said TV sales at both nets benefited from an avalanche of political ads. Mexico saw elections in its biggest state and early campaigning for the 2006 presidential race during the second quarter.

Sales at satellite TV unit Sky rose 17.7% to $134 million, driven by a 26.1% increase in subscribers, now at 1.18 million.

Overseas programming sales fell 9.7% to $58.8 million due to unfavorable currency exchange, lower Latin American sales and a 3.7%, $1.1 million, drop in royalties from Univision compared with the prior year.

Televisa is in a legal dispute with Univision over unpaid royalties. On Friday it said that it had added claims that Univision, which relies on Televisa for most of its primetime content, was welching on obligations to provide unsold ad time and altering its content without permission.

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