ACCC queries Foxtel/Ten deals
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has expressed concern about the proposed acquisitions between Foxtel Management and Ten Network Holdings Ltd. and is seeking further information.
Foxtel proposes to acquire up to 15% of Ten, which plans to take a 24.99% stake in subscription channels ad sales rep MCN. Ten will also have an option to acquire 10% of Presto TV, the joint venture between Foxtel and Seven West Media.
"The ACCC is concerned that the proposed acquisitions have the potential to substantially lessen competition for the supply of free-to-air television services in Australia, particularly in the broadcasting of sports content,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
“The proposed acquisitions may increase the likelihood of Ten and Foxtel entering into joint bids and other commercial arrangements for acquisition of sports rights, to the exclusion of other free-to-air networks. Such arrangements could enhance Ten’s ability to acquire the rights to sports, including premium sports, and could increase the likelihood of more sport being shown exclusively on Foxtel.”
“Given the importance of sporting content to a broadcaster’s ability to compete strongly with other free-to-air networks, the ACCC is concerned that the advantage Ten would gain in acquiring sporting content may lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the free-to-air television market, or in the broader market for the supply of television viewing services.
“The ACCC is also concerned that the proposed acquisitions may reduce competition in the sale of advertising, including by further consolidation in this market, and by removing or reducing competition between Ten and Foxtel for advertising sales.”
Foxtel and Ten insist the deals will not lessen competition. A Foxtel spokesman told IF, "We continue to believe that the various proposed arrangements will not lead to a substantial lessening of competition including in relation to sport which is highly competitive as the recent AFL and NRL deals demonstrate. We will continue to work with the ACCC in relation to this review.”
Ten said it is the process of reviewing the ACCC's document and preparing its response, adding, "Ten firmly considers that the objective evidence establishes that the proposed transactions will increase competition in the relevant markets."
The ACCC invites further submissions from interested parties in response to the statement of issues by September 28 and said it expects to announce its final decision on October 22.
Concurrently the Australian Communications and Media Authority is assessing whether the proposed arrangements between Foxtel and Ten are consistent with the media diversity and control rules prescribed in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
The ACMA is considering, amongst other things, whether as a result of the proposed transaction, any person will be in a position to exercise control of:
• a commercial radio broadcasting licence; and
• a commercial television broadcasting licence; and
• a newspaper, associated with the same radio licence area.
As the ACMA’s assessment is on-going the ACMA had no further comment.