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Foxtel offers small olive branch to Oz IPTV operators

Access to content, with caveats

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In its ongoing bid to acquire Australian pay TV company Austar, Foxtel has made a small concession to the country’s fledgling IPTV industry, saying it will forgo some of its exclusivity if allowed to make the acquisition.

The concession comes in a draft undertaking submitted to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and now open for comment.

In the proposed undertaking (available here), Foxtel agrees to limit its exclusive acquisition of Australian broadcast rights for movies, for on-demand delivery. While still able to acquire exclusive distribution rights for cable, satellite and mobile networks, Foxtel’s undertaking would prevent it from acquiring “new distribution rights to aggregated content, or movie TVOD rights, on an exclusive basis”, the undertaking says.

That sets up an interesting clash in the future, since once content is available on an IP TV service, it’s probably going to be visible to devices like tablets and smartphones, if for no other reason than the user is at home with a WiFi connection available.

As well as movies, Foxtel’s undertaking says it will not seek exclusive rights from independent content providers. In other words, third parties that have gained access to the Foxtel network as access seekers will be also able to cut deals with IPTV providers.

In both on-demand services and independent content, Foxtel will be able to ask the ACCC for exemptions. Perhaps more importantly, the undertaking doesn’t apply if Foxtel is in a bidding war for content: if a competitor is bidding for content on an exclusive basis, then Foxtel wants to be able to bid on an equal footing. Foxtel has also undertaken to open up access to independent content – also referred to in the undertaking as “linear channels” – that it already carries. IPTV services will be able to seek access via a connection within Foxtel’s facilities, or over the company’s satellite channels.

The ACCC is accepting submissions on the proposed undertaking until 20 March. ®

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