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Putin scores goal with free soccer

Government nixes NTV-Plus deal

MOSCOW — Soccer will continue to be shown free-to-air in Russia this year thanks to President Vladimir Putin’s intervention.

Last week paybox satcaster NTV-Plus paid $92 million for a four-year deal to air Russian Premier League soccer, much to the irritation of Putin, who ordered Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, billed as Putin’s successor, to sort it out (Variety, March 12).

He met NTV-Plus director general Dmitry Samokhin, and on Sunday, both men confirmed that regular-season games would continue to be shown free-to-air on Channel One, Sport and regional stations.

Samokhin insists the original contract still stands, but its status will be established later this week. Some form of sublicensing to Sport is the likely outcome.

To some, it looks like a family squabble. Sport is owned by pubcaster VGTRK, while NTV-Plus is part of Gazprom-Media, part of the state-owned energy giant of which Medvedev is chairman.