Sports News

Rights row threatens Spanish soccer broadcasts

MADRID (Reuters) - A dispute between TV firm Sogecable and production firm Mediapro over rights to show top Spanish league soccer has intensified, putting in doubt coverage of the new season’s kick-off this weekend.

Sogecable said late on Tuesday it would cut the signal to rival La Sexta, the free-to-air channel which belongs to Mediapro, because it still owes Sogecable 58 million euros ($78.18 million) for matches over the last two years.

Catalan production firm Mediapro responded by threatening to block broadcasts on Sogecable’s pay-TV service, Digital+.

“The grave and unilateral decision taken by Sogecable and its managers ... without doubt is going to signal a drastic and substantial reduction of matches that will be broadcast by pay-TV,” Mediapro said in a statement.

Up to now La Sexta has shown one match per weekend on its free-to-air TV station and Sogecable the remainder on pay-TV and pay-per-view.

The battle for the soccer rights intensified this summer after Mediapro announced it had signed media rights for 12 clubs in La Liga for 2008-09 season.

Mediapro also said in July that it had struck a deal with 39 of the 42 clubs in the first and second divisions to show their games in the 2009-10 season.

Sogecable, which has held first and second division rights for a number of seasons, has said Mediapro’s agreements with clubs breach contracts already in place and has said it will challenge them in the courts.

Sogecable is controlled by Spanish media group Prisa.