Univision and Televisa kiss and makeup...well, until the next episode

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Univision and Televisa kiss and makeup...well, until the next episode

Mon Jan 26, 2009 @ 11:50AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Telenovela We weren't surprised to hear last week that Univision and Televisa settled a very heated row over their programming agreement. By forging a deal on Thursday, Univision will have access to Televisa's popular Spanish-language telenovelas through 2017, at which time the programming agreement ends.

So steam up the showers for these old lovers, right? No tan rápido.

Soon after the settlement hit the press, lawyers for both sides started spinning what happened.

Televisa lawyer Marshall Grossman was crowing about the settlement, which includes $65 million a year in free advertising for its commercial ventures, or $585 million over the remaining nine years of the contract. Univision also agreed to pay Televisa $25 million in cash, but that figure includes $21.5 million already paid under protest.

"When your adversary comes to you and offers everything you were suing for plus a half-billion dollars of free advertising, it doesn't matter whether it comes on the first or last day of trial, you take it," Grossman told THR. "The settlement is more than what we asked for in the litigation, other than the termination of the agreement." 

Grossman's view of the settlement wasn't taken too kindly within Univision's headquarters, where the free ad time was shrugged off as an insignificant concession already due to Televisa. "This was truly a mutually beneficial agreement and Mr. Grossman's valuation is grossly overstated and misleading," a Univision spokesperson responded on Friday. "The cash and EBITDA impact to Univision from the settlement is minimal."

John Keker of Keker & Van Nest, who represented Univision during the case, went even further. He issued his own press release, saying "They tried to collect huge royalties and didn't get them."

Elliot Peters, a partner of Keker, added, "They could have done this deal almost two years ago."

Well, it seems like both sides are happy enough, or reasonably unhappy,  which is how settlements happen. Unfortunately, dealmaking isn't as emotionally satisfying at butchering your opponent in court, leaving both sides to schoolyard taunting via press release. Whatever happened to letting your opponent think they won?

At least Univision and Televisa will have another opportunity to clash swords in court. In March, before the same judge, both sides will reconvene in a separate case to hash out the issue of Internet rights. Unless, of course, they settle before then.  

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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