The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has decided to not oppose the proposed merger of Foxtel and Fox Sports after finding the transaction would not substantially lessen competition.
Currently, News Corp owns 100 per cent of Fox Sports and owns Foxtel jointly with Telstra.
Under the merger, Foxtel and Fox Sports will be brought together under common ownership, with News holding 65 per cent of the merged entity. Telstra will hold the remaining 35 per cent interest. The merged entity will also enter a number of agreements with Telstra.
“The ACCC won’t oppose this merger after finding that the commercial incentives of Foxtel, Fox Sports, News, and Telstra will not be substantially altered,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
“Therefore, the change in ownership structure is unlikely to substantially lessen competition.
“Foxtel and Fox Sports have a close and long-standing relationship, operating within the ownership of News and Telstra.
“Given News’ current interests in both Foxtel and Fox Sports, it would be unlikely that Fox Sports would be made available to competitors of Foxtel in the absence of the merger.”
Sims said the ACCC considered how the merger would affect a number of different markets and took into account feedback from a range of market participants in reaching its decision.
“We focused on the acquisition of sporting content and concluded that the proposed merger was unlikely to substantially lessen competition in this market,” he said.
The competition watchdog also considered the effect of the merger and related agreements on the supply of triple play bundles of voice, broadband, and audio visual content by broadband and mobile providers.
As part of the merger transaction, Telstra is being appointed the exclusive telecommunications agent for Foxtel’s digital products.
“An important consideration was that consumers will still be able to access Foxtel’s digital products even if they acquire broadband or mobile services from Telstra’s competitors,” Sims said.
“Also, generally, where triple play bundles are offered consumers still have to pay to acquire premium packages, and there are alternative sources of content for other telecommunications suppliers wanting to offer triple play bundles.”
Telstra and News Corp will look to finalise the transaction in the first half of 2018.