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EU monitor orders Telia to revise streaming auction after Tele2 complaint

Swedish telco Tele2’s appeal to the EU monitoring trustee over the terms of rival Telia’s auctioning of TV streaming rights had been successful, producing an instruction to Telia to change the terms of the rights auction.

Anders Nilsson

Tele2, owner of Swedish cable operator Com Hem, had complained that Telia’s auctioning of streaming rights to the channels of commercial broadcaster TV4, which it acquired last year, was designed so that only one player would acquire all the rights on offer. It said that Telia had included a greater number of rights in the auction than the EC had intended when it mandated Telia to auction streaming rights to at least one third-party player in Sweden and Finland as a condition for its approval of the acquisition of TV4 owner Bonnier Broadcasting.

Tele2/Com Hem accused Telia of trying to use the EC’s requirement for an auction to further restrict the availability of TV4.

The monitoring trustee said that terms of the auction constituted a breach of its commitments and ordered the company to rectify the offer.

““We welcome the clear message from the Monitoring Trustee that the scope of the auction that Telia has communicated to us so far constitutes a breach of EU conditions. At the same time, it is regrettable that Telia is prepared to breach the EU Commission’s binding conditions to restrict TV4 channels. A breach of conditions is very serious, and unfortunately it indicates that Telia is willing to go far and take great risks to be able to fulfill its plan for a TV4 that should no longer be available to everyone. Against this background, the government should now, if ever, take on its responsibilities as the main owner of Telia and TV4,” said Anders Nilsson, CEO of Tele2.

Telia’s acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting has attracted criticism – not least from Tele2 – because the government’s stake in the company gives it an indirect ownership interest in the largest Swedish commercial broadcaster.

Hostilities between Com Hem and TV4 initially erupted at the end of last year when the pair failed to strike a deal over the carriage of TV4 and pay TV sister outfit C More on the Com Hem network.

TV4 chief executive Casten Almqvist said at the time that the Tele2-owned operator was using its market position to leapfrog other potential bidders for OTT TV rights by insisting that these be bundled in with the carriage renewal.

Tele2 recently launched its new standalone streaming service, Comhem Play+, to compete with Sweden’s already crowded field of SVOD offerings.

Under the conditions imposed on Telia by the EC as part of its approval of the telco’s acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting, TV4 must license streaming rights to at least one distributor in each of the two markets in which it operates, Sweden and Finland.