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Fifa kicking up Euro deals for 2010 Cup

Deal means fans will see matches live on free terrestrial TV

FRANKFURT — World soccer’s governing body has agreed to terrestrial TV rights deals with broadcasters in the U.K., France, Italy Germany and Spain as part of a Europe-wide package for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa worth some $1.21 billion.

Announcing the deal on Wednesday, Federation Internationale de Football Assn. (Fifa) prexy Sepp Blatter said the org would work with the European Broadcasting Union to sell rights to other Euro countries.

Deal, worth roughly twice as much as that for the European TV rights for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, means that fans will see most of the matches live on free terrestrial TV.

The rights had been expected to go to Swiss marketing company Infront Sports & Media, which is handling the global broadcasting rights sales for next year’s World Cup in Germany.

Instead, Fifa is handling all sales.

“We are going back to our origins,” Blatter added. “We are going to do what we used to do successfully.”

In Britain, the tourney will air on commercial web ITV and pubcaster the BBC; in Germany, on pubcasters ARD and ZDF and paybox Premiere; in France, on commercial web TF1; in Spain on TVE; and in Italy on pubcaster RAI and paybox Sky Italia.

Blatter also said the decision not to work with an agency, such as Infront, would give Fifa more editorial control. “We want to convey our message, not just show football,” he said.

Fifa has sold rights for the Japanese market but has yet to conclude deals for North or South America, the rest of Asia or Africa.

Fifa director of communications Markus Siegler explained, “The idea of the deal was to improve the reach globally by going to the public broadcast channels, but this doesn’t mean that pay TV is excluded in any country.”

Privately held Infront was part of the empire of German media mogul Leo Kirch before its collapse.

Kirch paid $2.2 billion, plus another $220 million to cover the U.S., for the combined global TV rights for the World Cups in South Korea and Japan in 2002 and Germany in 2006.

HBS, a subsidiary of Infront, is producing the TV signal for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

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