Spark attacks Sky/Vodafone NZ merger - Mobile World Live

Spark attacks Sky/Vodafone NZ merger

16 AUG 2016

Spark New Zealand complained to the country’s antitrust regulator about the proposed merger between Vodafone’s local unit and Sky Network Television, the country’s largest pay TV provider.

Spark, the country’s second largest mobile operator behind Vodafone, argued to the Commerce Commission that the deal should be blocked unless Sky changed the way it offers wholesale sports content to rivals, a classic convergence spat.

In a statement, Spark New Zealand’s general manger for regulation, John Wesley-Smith, said Sky had an effective monopoly over rights for premium ‘national sports’ in the country, giving it an unfair advantage.

“As it stands right now, there isn’t a proper wholesale market for access to premium sports, and as a result New Zealanders have very few options for how they access that content,” argued Wesley-Smith.

Sky does have wholesale options but they were defined as “unattractive” by its rival, and focused on “reselling Sky boxes”. Spark, which walked away from a reseller agreement with the pay-TV firm three years, said it does not want to be tied to this distribution model.

The operator argued Sky’s sports content should be made available online and on-demand, as well as via wholesale arrangement “with lots of parties that help distribute this content to New Zealand consumers”.

Sky announced its intention for a NZ$3.4 billion ($2.48 billion) merger with Vodafone in June. Under the terms of the deal, Vodafone would have a 51 per cent stake in the merged entity. News Corp sold its stake in Sky Network Television, which is quoted on both Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges, in 2013.

The transaction remains subject to regulatory approvals from New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office, as well as the Commerce Commission.

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Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

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