Sky Italia to appeal watchdog ban on distributing content exclusively online
Sky Italia today vowed to appeal against a ruling by the AGCM, after the Italian antitrust authority banned the pay-television giant from distributing exclusive content on its digital platforms for a period of three years in order to restore "potential competition in the pay-TV market."
The AGCM this week concluded its two-month probe into the acquisition by Sky Italia of R2, the pay-TV services and technical platform of Mediaset Premium, the digital terrestrial TV service, with the investigation focusing on whether the purchase of R2 could strengthen Sky’s dominant position in pay-TV and in the market for wholesale access to pay-TV distribution.
Mediaset Premium has previously offered the only real competition to Sky in the pay-TV market in Italy.
Mediaset said last year it was selling R2 to Sky Italia as part of a broader content agreement between the two broadcasters, but they agreed last month to partially cancel the sale, sensing it would not get regulatory approval.
Despite that move, the AGCM today gave a conditional green light to the deal, adding that the "partial return" of pay-TV assets to Mediaset was insufficient to level the playing field for online rivals.
The authorisation came with strict provisions, most notably: "The measures consist of a prohibition, for the Sky group, to stipulate exclusive rights for audiovisual content and linear channels for internet platforms in Italy. In this way, the authority considers that the potential competition of pay-TV offers via the internet can guarantee, in the future, adequate competitive pressure, which allows a reduction in prices for consumers and an increase in audiovisual content available to them."
Sky said it was "surprised" by the watchdog's decision considering that "the parties have already proceeded to return the R2 platform to the Mediaset group."
The three-year ban, the pay-TV operator said, "appears completely unjustified and disconnected with respect to the topic of the terrestrial technical platform raised by the same authority," and puts it at a disadvantage to digital-only players.
In 2018, Mediaset and Sky signed a wide-ranging agreement to make the former’s premium channels, plus various on-demand content, available to the latter’s satellite customers. Thanks to the alliance, Sky can in turn use Mediaset’s Premium pay-TV DTT platform for its own offering of services and channels.