Probe ends as Mediapro gives assurances on marketing of channels to OTT operators
Mediapro, the Spanish sports rights agency and production company, has committed to provide the BeIN Sports and BeIN LaLiga pay-television channels to over-the-top operators on the same conditions as traditional operators, thereby bringing an end to an investigation by the CNMC, the country’s antitrust regulator.
The announcement came amid reports that Orient Hontai, the Chinese private equity firm, has completed the acquisition of a majority stake in Imagina, the parent company of Mediapro, which operates the aforementioned channels and distributes international rights to Spanish soccer’s LaLiga.
Last March, the CNMC launched a probe into alleged anti-competitive practices by Mediapro relating to the distribution of the two channels, jointly operated with international pay-TV broadcaster BeIN Media Group, and which offer premium sport, including live matches from LaLiga and the Uefa Champions League.
It was prompted by a complaint from Obwan Networks and Services, which markets sports content in Spain on pay-TV platform Opensport.
Mediapro was accused of applying “discriminatory and unequal business conditions” in the wholesale marketing of BeIN Sports and BeIN LaLiga to pay-TV operators, and the investigation focused on new entrants seeking to offer them via the internet on OTT platforms, as opposed to more established players such as Telefónica, the Spanish telecoms giant, which owns the Movistar TV service.
After receiving the necessary reassurances from Mediapro that it will standardise its policy, the CNMC has ended the probe.
In a statement, the regulator said it had “agreed on the approval of the conventional termination of the disciplinary proceedings filed against Mediaproducción, SLU (Mediapro), for a possible abuse of a dominant position in the market of wholesale commercialication of premium pay television channels in Spain.”
It added that “OTT operators of internet pay-television in Spain, such as Opensport, will be offered a wholesale marketing model of the BeIN Sports and BeIN LaLiga channels on fair and non-discriminatory conditions compared to those enjoyed by traditional operators such as Telefónica and that take into account the scale of these new entrants.”
The CNMC said that as a result of the commitments made by Mediapro, there was no need “to pronounce definitively on the anti-competitive behaviour of which it had been accused.”
Mediapro’s commitments apply to the current marketing cycle of the two channels, namely 2015-16 to 2017-18 in the case of BeIN Sports and 2016-17 to 2018-19 in the case of BeIN LaLiga.
It had been claimed that Mediapro had initially refused to apply wholesale marketing models for the two channels in its proposal to OTT operators similar to those offered to the likes of Telefónica, including a fixed price per season.
However, as a result of the settlement, those companies will now feel able to compete more effectively with the telecoms firm in the provision of sports content to consumers.
Takeover Orient Hontai has finalised the acquisition of 54.5 per cent of Imagina in a deal worth around €900 million ($1.1 billion), according to Spanish reports.
Under the agreement thrashed out last October, the Chinese company is buying the 22.5-per-cent stake of Torreal, the company of Spanish billionaire Juan Abello, the 19-per-cent stake of Mexican media giant Televisa and the 12-per-cent stake of Gerard Romy, one of Mediapro’s founders.
Jaume Roures and Tatxo Benet, the other co-founding partners, are to remain at the helm, with a combined 24-per-cent shareholding.
The deal comes ahead of an auction for Spanish broadcasting rights to LaLiga from 2019-20 onwards for which Mediapro will again expect competition from Movistar Plus, the other major rights-holder.
The Spanish agency last week strengthened its hand internationally as it agreed a deal with Serie A worth €1.05 billion per year to acquire the media rights in Italy to the country’s top soccer league from 2018-19 to 2020-21
Mediapro and BeIN Sports have already landed exclusive rights to the Champions League and Europa League in Spain for three years starting next season, in a deal valued at a total of €1.05 billion.