Problems for Mediapro's soccer contracts

Iñaki Ferreras

Spanish producer Mediapro could see its quasi monopoly in the soccer televised rights world end soon. The National Commission for Competitiveness is fighting to put an end to the contracts Mediapro has signed with the soccer clubs beyond the 2011-2012 season.

This is the main conclusion of the file opened by the judges following complaints from Canal+s's Sogecable and Audiovisual Sport (the Sogecable's company managing the televised soccer rights) and also a series of regional TV channels and some teams from First and Second Division.

The report invalidates the purchase of the audiovisual rights of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Espanyol, Deportivo, Valencia, Levante, Osasuna, Real Sociedad and Celta de Vigo, among others, that Mediapro had extended until the 2013-2014 season. The ruling puts a 3-year limit on these rights.

Mediapro has complained by saying it has already given the clubs more than €200 million. The producer justifies the long duration of the contracts because "only from the fifth season will Mediapro be able to start recuperating its investments in this field," says a Mediapro source.

But the Comission disagrees with this argument adding that some time ago Sogecable bought soccer rights every three years and it could benefit from them economically.

Finally the Comission highlights the "clear interests" of Mediapro in the free-to-air television market as in the pay TV market "which can distort its income to resell these rights in transparent conditions and at the same time objective and non discriminatory ones," according to the same source.

So the Commission is now investigating the sale of the televised rights of the Spanish Soccer League and the King's Cup which it considers are in a "quasi-monopoly" position in Spain.