Fox, Turner win broadcast rights to Argentine soccer

The flag of the Twenty-First Century Fox Inc is seen waving at the company headquarters in the Manhattan borough in New York June 11, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File photo

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Divisions of U.S. media companies Twenty-First Century Fox Inc FOXA.O and Time Warner Inc TWX.N won a joint contract to broadcast Argentine soccer matches for five years from next season, the Argentine Football Association said on Tuesday.

Fox Sports Latin America, a unit of Fox, and Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting System Latin America Inc won a three-way race for television broadcast rights against the United States’ ESPN and Spanish company MediaPro.

Terms of the deal were not released, but local media reported that Fox and Turner would pay $206 million per year and some $77.2 million as a guarantee. The channels will begin broadcasting when the 2017-18 season begins later this year.

The companies will also take on the court case brought by Argentine media company Grupo Clarin SA CLA.BA against the soccer association, which sold ownership rights to the federal government for its subsidized, free-to-view Futbol para Todos (Soccer for All) program in 2009.

Former left-wing President Christina Fernandez’s move to bring top-flight matches into the households of soccer-obsessed Argentines for free was widely considered a political masterstroke and emblematic of her populist policymaking during her eight years in power.

The new center-right government of President Mauricio Macri, a former chairman of top club Boca Juniors who took office in December 2015, made a deal with the association last month to rescind the contract, which had been due to run until 2019.

Macri has focused on reducing subsidies to cut Argentina’s wide fiscal deficit.

The broadcast deal comes a week after Argentine players ended a strike that delayed the start of the season by more than a month. Many players in the financially troubled league, especially in the lower divisions, were owed up to five months in salaries.

($1 = 15.5100 Argentine pesos)

Reporting by Luis Ampuero; Writing by Rex Gowar and Luc Cohen; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn