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Talk about kicking them while they’re down.

One year after losing rights to German Bundesliga soccer to upstart rival Arena, digital paybox Premiere is still smarting. And the league is rubbing salt in the wound.

With the first season under the deal halfway over, German Football League (DFL) prexy Werner Hackmann said last week that Arena, the sports rights subsid of German cabler Unity Media, has done a superb job covering the league.

While some had worried the nascent channel wouldn’t be able to deliver on a par with Premiere, which had held the rights since 1991, Hackmann says the league isn’t looking back. Sure, there were some minor technical glitches, and viewers needed time to get used to seeing new reporters, but Hackmann says the coverage has been first-rate.

“We’ve got a new pay TV broadcaster that is doing a very good job,” says Hackmann.

And Arena’s delivering games for just about half of what Premiere charged. With monthly fees of about E15 ($19.72), Arena has some 1 million subs.

Arena stunned Premiere in December 2005 when it snatched the soccer rights in a three-year, $1 billion deal.

Premiere had actually been willing to pay more, but it insisted on more exclusivity and tighter restrictions on free TV broadcasts later. With the loss of soccer, its share price plunged 45% to an all-time low of $9.68.

The one bright spot for Premiere: It has kept its hand in the game providing the platform in most German states for Arena soccer broadcasts, for which it gets a cut of the revenues.