The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) is concerned that Foxtel’s proposed acquisition of 15 per cent of Network Ten would “substantially lessen competition” for important sports rights, and ad sales in the market.
The ACCC released a Statement of Issues on Monday which said any agreement could see Ten and Foxtel enter into “joint bids and other commercial arrangements for acquisition of sports rights, to the exclusion of other free-to-air networks” boosting Ten’s ability to acquire sports rights and ultimately “increase the likelihood of more sport being shown exclusively on Foxtel”.
Foxtel attempted to buy 15 per cent of the free-to-air network in June after the government’s refusal to change ownership laws stopped it making a full takeover bid.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement on Monday: “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,” Mr Sims said.
“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.”
Ten recently missed out on rights in both the NRL and AFL bidding wars, but was expected to pick up a Saturday afternoon AFL game from News Corp.
The ACCC invited further submissions from interested parties in response to the Statement of Issues by Monday, September 28, 2015.
It was expected to announce its final decision on Thursday, October 22, 2015.
Foxtel proposed to acquire up to 15 per cent of Ten, while Ten proposed to acquire a 24.99 per cent stake in MCN, a supplier of advertising opportunities on subscription television channels. Ten will also have an option to acquire 10 per cent of Presto TV, a joint venture between Foxtel and the Seven Network.