The Spanish government has approved a merger between the country's two leading digital satellite TV operators Canal Satelite Digital (CSD) and Via Digital.

The government regulator placed some 34 conditions on the merger. More than a dozen of these concern rights to cinema content and thematic channels. Ten further conditions concern rights to football coverage.

According to the terms of the merger deal which was announced in principle in May, Via Digital-backer Telefonica will buy into CSD owner Sogecable and become an equal shareholder in Sogecable, alongside Spanish publishing giant Grupo Prisa and Canal Plus France.

The conditions placed a series of limitations on the new platform (and Sogecable) in its negotiation of film rights from "major studios" including. These mean that new output deals cannot last longer than three years, there can be no exclusivity to films from majors for pay-per-view on other Sogecable platforms. There has to be a maximum period of one year between first and second windows for major films. Sogecable must guarantee third party platforms access to at least one film channel carrying major films and other thematic channels.

Sogecable must give up its output deal with MGM in favour of MGM as this exceeds the three year rule.

Although many of the conditions are designed to protect other pay-TV players there are very few other than Canal Plus Spain's basic terrestrial operations, which is controlled by Sogecable, and the emerging cable operators. The cable companies are widely expected to appeal the Spanish government decision to European authorities in Brussels.