A federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday handed Univision Communications a major victory in its hard-fought battle with its programming partner from Mexico, underscoring Univision's exclusive rights in the U.S. to the wildly popular Spanish-language soap operas that fuel its huge ratings.

Grupo Televisa, Mexico's largest entertainment company, had sought the judge's permission to transmit to U.S. audiences over the Internet episodes of the telenovelas, or soap operas, that Televisa produces in Mexico City.

But in a 21-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez concluded that a long-term programming agreement that Univision and Televisa struck in 1992 "bars Televisa from sending programs to the United States by any means, including the Internet."

Televisa said it would appeal.

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