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Deal to show World Cup on AFN still being negotiated

Broadcasting and marketing representatives were working feverishly Thursday evening to complete a deal that would allow American Forces Network to carry some World Cup soccer games in time for Saturday’s U.S. match against Italy.

Sky Italia and Infront Sports and Media, which owns the international World Cup broadcasting rights, were locked in negotiations, said Andrew Butcher, a spokesman for News Corp., which owns Sky Italia.

Stars and Stripes was told Wednesday that Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp., struck a deal with Infront to allow AFN to carry some games. That arrangement, however, was still incomplete late Thursday.

“It’s pretty much done, it should come through in the next 24 hours,” Butcher said Thursday.

Infront, confirmed Thursday that it is in negotiations with Sky Italia to allow AFN to carry some World Cup games.

“We’re very hopeful and working very hard to get this done,” Butcher said.

Sky Italia had previously acquired the rights to broadcast the World Cup in Italy, San Marino and Vatican City. The deal being hammered out now would essentially add AFN to the existing Sky Italia agreement and allow AFN viewers across the world to see the matches involving the United States. The semifinals and the finals are also part of the deal.

Changing that agreement will take some time, but exactly how much time isn’t clear, according to Infront.

“I think we will have everything done soon,” said Joerg Polzer, spokesman for Infront. “We’re just exchanging documents with Sky Italia.”

Polzer couldn’t comment on whether the deal would be finished in time for AFN to broadcast Saturday’s U.S. match. “It’s a matter of days,” he said of how long it will take to finalize the deal.

The Pentagon has no control over the dealings between Infront and Sky Italia, according to Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison. Barber hadn’t heard from Infront of the possibility that AFN might not carry Saturday’s game.

“That would be tragic,” she said. “I hope that’s not the case.”

The deal, according to Polzer, does not involve FIFA, the organization that governs international soccer. “FIFA has supported the request,” said Pekka Odriozola, spokesman for FIFA. But, he continued, the deal is something Infront, as broadcast rights holder for the World Cup, has to manage with Sky Italia.

Before this deal, Infront was unable to agree to terms with AFN, said Polzer.

“We have applied a common standard” to offer the games to military broadcasting networks, he said, adding that other militaries’ networks paid “a reasonable sum” for the rights.


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