Cup runneth over in rights battle

Televisa, TV Azteca announce World Cup coverage

MEXICO CITY — Once again, Mexico’s top nets are bringing their epic rivalry to the soccer pitch.

More than 15 months before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Televisa and TV Azteca announced this week their purchases of event coverage — and all signs point to a pretty even match, at least on terrestrial television.

Televisa will broadcast 34 of the 62 Cup matches beginning June 9, 2006, while TV Azteca will air 33. Both will cover all games played by the Mexican national team, presuming it qualifies, as well as the post-qualifying round games and the final.

In addition, Televisa will transmit the remaining 30 games on its Sky Mexico network; Azteca doesn’t have a satellite or cable platform.

Deals were brokered via the Ibero-American Telecommunications Organization (OTI), which buys rights to the event directly from Fifa, soccer’s highest body, and then resells them throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

Each net was rumored to pay roughly $14 million for broadcast rights. Azteca Sports general director Jose Ramon Fernandez would not confirm the amount, saying only, “We paid a lot of money. We fought, we struggled, and we battled.”

Whatever the price, the World Cup’s importance in futbol crazy Mexico cannot be overstated. Advertising revenue during Cup events can turn an otherwise slow quarter into a booming success.

During the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, for example, Mexican nets showed only 18 games on broadcast due to the high price; nonetheless, the event was a cornerstone of strong second quarters for both.

With that precedent, the second quarter of 2006 has the makings of an ad sales extravaganza for Azteca and Televisa. The nets will reap gains from the World Cup — and every other spare second of airtime will be devoted to political ads running up to the presidential and congressional elections on July 2, 2006.

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