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Grupo Televisa Sues Univision

July 20, 2006|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

Grupo Televisa, the world's largest producer of Spanish-language programming, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Univision Communications Inc. seeking a declaration of its right to distribute its popular TV shows in the U.S. over the Internet.

Univision and Televisa have long been at odds over whether a 1992 programming agreement, which gives Univision the U.S. television broadcasting rights to Televisa's programming, covers Internet downloads.

Univision disputes Televisa's contention that it has the Internet rights. "We strongly believe that they are wrong," Univision spokeswoman Stephanie Pillersdorf said. "We will aggressively defend and prosecute the litigation."

The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, came less than a month after Mexico City-based Televisa lost the bidding for Univision, the dominant Spanish-language media company in the U.S. Instead, Univision's board accepted a $12.3-billion offer by a group of private investors that includes billionaire media baron Haim Saban.

The suit could give Televisa, which owns 11% of L.A.-based Univision, ammunition to negotiate higher programming fees from the consortium, which also includes Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Texas Pacific Group.

The investors had invited Televisa to join them and increase its stake in Univision to as much as 19.9%. Televisa declined.

Instead, Alfonso De Angoitia, Televisa's executive vice president, said the company wanted to immediately sell its stock. Sources close to the consortium have said it would not rule out an eventual partnership because the Mexican company is obligated to continue to provide its popular telenovelas exclusively to Univision through 2017.

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