Vodafone Spain urges new market rules for football

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Vodafone Spain is lobbying regulator CNMC to change market rules and oblige Movistar to share its premium content at a more reasonable price.

The operator has urged it to modify the criteria to calculate the football cost per customer, coinciding with the revision plan of the conditions imposed on Telefónica to guarantee free competition to be made by the CNMC in 2020.

Vodafone is making the request as it seeks to have football back on its platform. “We do not like not to have football. But, we had to give up as it was not profitable,” pointed out Antonio Coimbra at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Vodafone decided to give up on pay-TV football last summer and did not renew the agreement with Movistar to offer El Partidazo (the best football match each week) and the Champions League in view of the high expense and lack of profitability. As a result, the company lost 66,000 TV subscribers in just three months.

For the new season, Vodafone could lose more customers as the offer of eight weekly matches which it still airs will drop.

“The ideal would be that any operator could offer football content, that any customer could take the football content from any company,” said Coimbra. In his opinion, unless there is a change in the cost calculations, football is not profitable. “It is not profitable because regulation does not permit it,” he concluded.

After the acquisition of Canal Plus by Telefónica, the CNMC imposed a number of conditions to authorise the deal. Among them, the obligation of Telefónica of sharing half of its premium content with third parties at a price established by the regulator.

As for football, a minimum price is set plus a cost per subscriber, not for customer taking a football content. Before the summer, Vodafone had 1.3 million subscribers, but only 300,000 enjoyed a package with football content. For the company this is disproportionate as it means that the cost is around €960 per customer a year whereas for Movistar and Orange it means between €420-€450.

Vodafone hopes to change this by eliminating the minimum price and setting a variable cost according to the number of customers.

Next year, the CNMC must revise the conditions on Telefónica, with Vodafone hoping to introduce these changes.

“We will keep on fighting to improve the model. We are working with the authorities to improve this industry to sort this out. It is easy to check that the market does not work as it is right now,” said Coimbra.

Vodafone also demands that Movistar does not take advantage of its dominant position by launching TV offers with promotions which are difficult for others to match.


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