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A Spanish skirmish

Televisa seeks to end Univision deal

Televisa’s legal battle with Univision is heating up after the Mexican media giant asked an L.A. court to end its contentious 25-year programming deal with the Spanish-language U.S. network.

Televisa alleges that Univision has so seriously breached the terms of the deal, which expires in 2017, that it should be ended.

The news emerged in a filing Univision lodged with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, which made it clear that the web would fight to keep the deal in place.

Univision depends on Televisa to fill its primetime schedule with top-rated telenovelas that help ensure its dominant market share.

Relations between the two soured a year ago, when Univision chairman-CEO Jerry Perenchio tapped his longtime exec Ray Rodriguez as prexy and chief operating officer without consulting Televisa or other shareholders.

Televisa sued Univision in May, seeking redress for alleged shortfalls in royalty payments, unauthorized editing and access to ad time — and Televisa chairman-CEO Emilio Azcarraga resigned from Univision’s board.

Azcarraga, whose father forged the Univision pact, wants to play a bigger part in the fast-growing U.S. Hispanic market.

Televisa’s request to be let out of the pact was buried in paragraph 147 of a 43-page document filed with Los Angeles District Court on Tuesday.

“Televisa’s material breach allegations are … part of its defense against the counterclaims that we filed” in August a Univision spokesman said. “Even if there were a material breach — which we are absolutely convinced there has not been — we would have 180 days to cure it.”

The court isn’t skedded to hear arguments until 2007.

The latest legal maneuverings come 10 days after Univision exec VP-chief financial officer Andrew Hobson said Univision would produce its own novelas when the program deal expired.

Univision has other suppliers to fall on if Televisa pulls out.

It has a programming pact with Venezuelan broadcaster RCTV until 2010, and one with its rival Venevision, part of the Cisneros Group, until 2017. Its pact with Colombia’s RCN expires this year, but it is not clear whether it will be renewed.

A dissolution would level the playing field for NBC U-owned Telemundo, which has been fighting to narrow the ratings gap with its rival.

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