Dutch competition authority clears proposed concentration between Fox and Eredivisie

On 7 December 2012, the Dutch competition authority ("NMa") published its decision in which it cleared the proposed concentration between the US media company Fox International Channels ("Fox"), Eredivisie Beheer B.V. ("EBV") and Eredivisie Media & Marketing C.V. ("EMM"). On the same day, the NMa also published its "informal memorandum" in which it assessed the competition law implications of the cooperation of the parties in exploiting the broadcasting rights of the football clubs in the Dutch highest league ("Eredivisie").

EMM exploits the broadcasting rights of the football clubs in the Eredivisie. The broadcasting rights for live football coverage are currently being exploited via EMM's own paid television channel "Eredivisie Live". Furthermore, EMM has granted a licence to the public television channel NOS to be the first to broadcast the highlights of the Eredivisie until 1 July 2014. After the expiry of this licence EMM is considering whether to exploit the broadcasting rights for the highlights itself via a new television channel called "Fox NL".

In its decision the NMa concluded that the parties only have a small combined market share on the investigated markets, i.e. the markets for broadcasting rights for audio-visual content, for the transmission of television signals at wholesale level and for television advertising. According to the NMa, it was unlikely that the proposed concentration would significantly impede competition on any of the said markets.

In its informal memorandum the NMa concluded that there is a possibility that the Fox NL channel will be offered on discriminatory conditions to the so called "distribution platforms", i.e. companies which offer television through their own infrastructure, such as cable. EBV, EMM and Fox put forward that the Fox NL channel will be offered to all the distribution platforms, however the parties reserved the right to develop commercial propositions which combine the Fox NL channel and other content from Fox. The NMa held that this conduct might violate competition law in as far as it significantly impedes competition. Unless new evidence emerges or in case of a complaint the NMa considered it, however, unlikely that it will start an investigation on its own initiative.