The latest court battle between Univision Communications and Mexican production house Grupo Televisa has the two companies struggling to figure out how a pre-Internet programming agreement applies in the age of digital media.
The 1992 contract gave Univision, an L.A.-based Spanish-language TV network, exclusive right to broadcast Televisa shows in the United States. But in court filings, Televisa? attorneys point to an exception that gave Televisa the right to transmit its shows ?rom any television station in Mexico ?notwithstanding the fact that such transmissions or retransmissions may be viewed in the territory?of the United States.
The exception was designed to protect Mexican TV stations near the U.S.-Mexico border that routinely air Televisa programs that viewers in the states can pick up.
Televisa now contends that by the same logic, its servers in Mexico have the right to put shows on the Web. Univision said they don?, because the programs can be viewed easily on computers in the United States.
A decision against Univision could affect the commercialization of its shows, said Julio Rumbaut, a Hispanic TV consultant in Miami. That? because Televisa first broadcasts its shows in Mexico before selling them to Univision and broadcasters in other countries.
?f Televisa gets the decision, viewers could potentially watch a soap opera six months ahead of when it airs on Univision,?Rumbaut explained.
The case is scheduled to be heard June 9 at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Rumbaut believes the companies will settle out of court rather than trust a judge to settle the matter.
The two companies battled over their programming agreement earlier this year. That fight concerned the amount of money Univision had to pay Televisa; they settled out of court with Televisa getting some improved terms. The companies agreed to deal with these new-media issues at a later date. The programming agreement between the two companies is valid until 2017.
Currently, 20 million U.S. Hispanics are online and entertainment is one of their top reasons for adopting the technology, according to a report from research firm Captura Group.
Univision has the most popular Web site among U.S. Hispanics, with 34 million visits every month. TV shows are not available on the site.
?n the Hispanic market, as in the general market, new media is moving forward quickly and attracting advertisers,?Rumbaut said. ?his programming agreement is crucial because between now and 2017, new media will become more valuable.?p>Attorneys for both parties declined to talk publicly about the case. However, Univision issued a statement on the case that said: ?elevisa does not have the right to compete with Univision by broadcasting over the Internet in the United States programs it has licensed to Univision under the Program Licensing Agreement. We are confident that we will prevail at trial.?p>
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