TVE, Forta win Champions League

Mediapro takes pay TV from Sogecable

MADRID — Spanish pubcasters TVE and Forta have inked a three-year deal for free-to-air rights to matches from the European Champions League, the continent’s premier soccer club competition.

Deal kicks off with the 2009/10 season.

Also, deep-pocketed rights broker Mediapro has taken European Champions League pay TV rights for the same period.

Nationwide net TVE and Spanish regional channels grouped under the Forta umbrella have a first option to 16 European soccer matches skedded in Tuesday and Wednesday primetime. They will share the Champions League final match broadcast.

In Spain, DeAPlaneta’s commercial web Antena 3 TV has Champions League free-to-air rights until the end of the 2008/09 season.

“It’s bad news for A3TV since it loses one of its most attractive pieces of content,” a Madrid-based analyst said.

“But it stops paying some $47.5 million a year for Champions League rights, allowing A3TV to cut costs,” he added.

For Barcelona-based Mediapro, a lead shareholder in newbie broadcast network La Sexta, the Champions League pay TV rights represents another step-up in its spectacular acquisition assault on TV sports rights.

Mediapro announced Friday it will broadcast 14 Euro matches each Champions League day, including two played by Spanish teams, via a new pay TV channel it’s prepping for the next season.

Spanish pay TV rights for the Champions League are owned by Sogecable for the 2008/09 season. Reportedly, Mediapro has paid well above the Euros50 million ($79.2 million) a season Sogecable has been paying for Spanish pay TV rights.

The new Mediapro acquisition “will further weaken the position of Sogecable as the leader in Spanish pay TV, as the exclusive European soccer was one of the great strengths of its platform Digital Plus,” the analyst said.

“If Sogecable is trying to sell the platform, this is another point against it.”

For over a year, Sogecable and Mediapro have fought a bitter battle for Spanish soccer league rights.

One large question is how Mediapro will launch a new pay TV channel. Mediapro prexy Jaume Roures and other Spanish TV execs have been tubthumping the idea of including pay TV content in DTT. The system would require Spanish government approval, however. That may not be a large obstacle.

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