Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica has acquired a 25% stake in Barcelona-based content producer and broker Media Park in a transaction worth a reported $60m (pts10,500m). The shares will be managed by Telefonica subsidiary Telefonica Media.
Local reports suggest that Telefonica paid as much as five times what Media Park shares were valued just weeks earlier. As a possible explanation analysts point to political motives for Telefonica's entrance into Media Park, a move which comes on the heels of Telefonica's announcement to install headquarters for the recently created Terra Lycos in Barcelona.
By making moves into Barcelona some say Telefonica CEO Juan Villalonga seeks to win the support of both Catalan regional government head Jordi Pujol and Catalan banking group La Caixa, a key Telefonica shareholder. Tensions between Villalonga and shareholders at La Caixa and BBVA are running high since the two banks joined the national government in opposing Villalonga's merger talks with Dutch telco KPN last month. That stand-off ended in rumours that Villalonga could resign.
But the Media Park acquisition, approved last Wednesday by Telefonica's board of directors, follows the pattern of Villalonga's aggressive international expansion. The move also demonstrates Telefonica Media's determination to take a leading role in the Spanish media industry, which is quickly transforming into just a few major players with overlapping interests. Telefonica Media holding Antena 3 Television, for example, also owns a 3% stake in Media Park. And while Telefonica Media has a controlling interest in digital satellite TV platform Via Digital, Media Park manages a 15% share in Via rival Quiero TV.
Founded in 1996 with the support of the Catalan government, Media Park is a growing content producer and broker boasting state-of-the-art multimedia production services. The company produces nine thematic TV channels, including Showtime Extreme, Cinematk, Palomitas and Canal 18, which have racked up a combined 575,000 subscribers. Media Park also recently made its first move into feature film production. Before Telefonica, Media Park's lead shareholders included CCRTV, Philips, Equip, Iberdrola, Skandia Media Invest and Antena 3.