The sports media rights debate is hotting up with
broadcasting deals moving towards shorter contracts, more
packages and a split between TV, internet and 3G rights.
Commission sector inquiries are underway.
The Commission launched a sector inquiry into the
sale of sports rights and 3G in January
2004 and will launch a second sector inquiry
into the sale of sports rights and the
internet at the end of 2004 / early 2005. One
key reason for a sector-wide approach is
to find out if exclusive sports media rights deals are
hampering competition and thereby restricting
choice/artificially lifting prices for a given product.
Effectively, the Commission wants to smoke out
any anti-competitive commercial arrangements and
conduct that may exist across the whole industry.
It also wants to ensure that new
competition has access to these rights.
The sector inquiry into 3G is a two-step
process. The first step is designed to give the
Commission an overview of the sector via
questionnaires sent out to a sample of 55
companies, be they rights owners, TV operators or mobile
operators. The idea is to assess the importance of sports
rights for 3G and identify types of restrictions in terms
of access imposed by TV broadcasters. The second
step is a questionnaire sent out to other players
and extra questions for the 55 companies which were
targeted in the first instance.
In the past the Commission says anti-competitive
commercial arrangements and conduct has chiefly
taken the form of:
- refusals to supply, the bundling of TV rights with
new media/UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications
- the existence of embargoes favouring TV coverage
over new types of coverage
- the purchase of new media/UMTS rights on an
The Commission came up against some of these
practices when dealing recently with the sale of the
media rights to the UEFA Champions League football
tournament and the sale of the rights to the English and
German premier leagues. In UEFA’s case, following a
careful examination of Champions League broadcasting
rules, the Commission sent a statement of objections to
the organisation on 19 July 2001.
UEFA now has a new joint selling arrangement whereby,
instead of selling the rights as a bundle to only one
broadcaster per country, it has agreed to sell the
rights in several packages for shorter periods of time.
Individual football clubs will also be able to exploit
some of the rights with their fan base. Internet and
UMTS rights are also included in the deal for the