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Premiere bans soccer rival from decoder

The battle to air German soccer continued Tuesday with former monopoly paybox Premiere scoring a goal against Arena, the tyro web that snatched the rights in December.

A state court upheld Premiere’s decision to bar Arena from using its decoder boxes to broadcast the top league Bundesliga matches.

It’s a major setback for Arena, a subsidiary of regional cabler Unity Media, which could force it to share its pricey three-season soccer package with Premiere. Latter had long relied on the sport to attract many of its 3.6 million subscribers.

Arena must set up a digital soccer channel in record time for summer’s Bundesliga kickoff and devise a way for sports fans to receive it.

Web had hoped to woo Premiere cable subscribers while using the Premiere decoder boxes to distribute the new channel.

But Premiere nixed a usage contract with Unity Media last month, which means Arena customers must buy separate digital decoder boxes.

The latest development in the battle for the Bundesliga comes just days after Premiere hit a stumbling block of its own.

Paybox had been trying to swing a deal with Internet provider T-Online, which controls Bundesliga Internet rights, to air Web coverage on TV.

On Friday soccer league officials said only Arena could broadcast the matches live on TV, causing Premiere’s stock to fall 5%.

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