The Spanish Telecommunications Authority (CMT) proposes to deregulate the market for the broadcasting of the DTT signal

20 July 2012

Adela Gómez

  • The operator with significant market power, Abertis, is subject to the regulatory obligations imposed by CMT in the 2009 ex ante review

  • Due to lack of demand for wholesale regulated services, the NRA believes that the intervention of the National Competition Authority (CNC) adequate to limit potential anticompetitive practices

On July 16th the Spanish NRA has made public its proposal for the deregulation of the above-mentioned market. Given the specific nature of the services at stake, CMT considers that there are not valid competitors with a real capacity to fight on a national level. On this ground, CNC intervention is deemed adequate to limit excessive pricing conducts or other anticompetitive practices.

Abertis, the biggest player on the market, is subject to regulatory obligations imposed by the CMT during its review in 2009. Namely, leasing of space in the operator’s emitting centres (collocation) and the possibility for interconnection with Abertis’ network in other sites.

Since 2007 the market for the broadcasting of the DTT signal is not included among the markets recommended for ex ante regulation by the European Commission. This market, formerly known as Market 18, allows the transmission of DTT signals to the homes of citizens and is the most usual way of providing TV broadcasting services in Spain.

The relevant market is limited to signal broadcasting, as the distribution of the DTT signal represents a separate market that has never been regulated, since it has been considered to be a competitive one. In the whole of the broadcasting markets (national, regional and local), the operator Abertis maintains more than 80% share in terms of revenue and customers.

Absence of a real domestic competitor

Following the imposition of regulatory obligations in 2009, there has been a lack of demand for wholesale services by Abertis’ competitors. Thus, since 2009 collocation and interconnection services have been requested only for 0.13% of the emitting centres and 0.05% of the sites, respectively, with business turnover representing less than €180,000.

The absence of competitors comes from the considerable sunk costs that operators must face to access the market. These investments are necessary for market entry purposes, but cannot be recovered after the end of the business activity.

Alternative operators

Seven Autonomous Communities (regions) have an independent operator providing services for the broadcasting of DTT signal, with all of them covering 48.3% of the Spanish population. There are also an unspecified number of local operators.

The demanding legal requirements for service quality imply that a change of broadcaster is not typically perceived by the viewer as an improvement. After a migration process, there is always a period of uncertainty due to incidents that may arise.

Another element that potentially reduces competition in this market is the small number of applicants for wholesale services (national, regional and local televisions), which also hire the service on specific dates and for long periods of time.

The intervention of CNC

Finally, based on the principles of proportionality and minimal regulation, CMT has considered that the intervention of the Spanish Competition Authority would be adequate to limit anti-competitive practices that may be carried out by dominant operator Abertis.

The small number of customers and long term contracts (several years) that characterize the market would facilitate action by CNC. Furthermore, the agency already has an expertise in resolving cases related to this type of markets.

CMT proposal to deregulate the relevant market and eliminate the ex ante obligations imposed on Abertis, is subject to a two-month public consultation process seeking the opinions of all relevant stakeholders.