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Gol TV Nets Rights Deals

Gearing up for its upfront presentation to advertisers, Gol TV is buttressing its futbol roster with deals for 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches for three top European sides.

The soccer-centric service has netted deals for qualifying games involving the Italian, Spanish and German national teams, the third-, fourth- and fifth-ranked teams in the world, during 2008 and 2009, leading up to the World Cup in South Africa, said Gol TV founder and CEO Enzo Francescoli.

Gol, which offers both English- and Spanish-language audio feeds, also gained rights to the March 26 “friendly” between top-ranked Argentina and Egypt, the African Cup winner.

The deal with Germany, terms of which were not disclosed, gives Gol TV, which counts some 16 million subscribers, exclusive U.S. and Canada rights for five World Cup qualifiers, starting in September.

Gol has rights to matches pitting Germany, which has won the World Cup three times, against Russia, Wales, Lichtenstein, Azerbaijan and Finland. The pact also provides for six so-called friendlies, including a contest with rival England in Berlin Nov. 19.

Gol TV already has strong ties to Germany: The network has U.S. TV rights to the nation's top league, the Bundesliga, into 2009.

Although he declined to provide specifics, Francescoli — the Uruguayan national known as “The Prince,” who led his nation to World Cup appearances in 1986 and 1990 — said the deals for the Spanish and Italian national teams are similar, encompassing “six to eight World Cup qualifiers, plus friendlies.”

Italy is the defending World Cup champion, toppling France in the final of the 2006 tournament from Germany. Gol TV previously aired action from Serie A, Italy's top league, but those rights were secured by Fox Soccer Channel. However, last fall Gol grabbed rights to the Coppa Italia tourney.

Gol TV is also entrenched in Spain, presenting matches from La Liga — which, along with the Barclays English Premier League, is arguably the top circuit on the planet — in the U.S. Chief operating officer Rodrigo Lombello said that the network, which became rated by Nielsen Hispanic Television Index in October, said La Liga matches consistently have been the top show in Hispanic households on weekends, and rank among the top 10 on a weekly basis.

All told, Gol TV airs more than 1,000 matches annually from the aforementioned leagues, as well as circuits from South America, and other World Cup qualifiers involving teams from Latin America.