French watchdog opens in-depth probe into TF1-M6 merger

France’s competition watchdog, the Autorité de la Concurrence, has decided to open a ‘phase 2’ in-depth probe into the planned merger of commercial broadcasters TF1 and M6.

The regulator said that it had decided there was a need for a more in-depth investigation following its initial probe into the views of the parties’ suppliers, competitors and customers in the markets for the acquisition of rights, the publishing and distribution of TV services and advertising.

The watchdog has thus far conducted hearings with a number of players and has surveyed around 1,000 advertisers likely to be affected by the merger of the country’s two biggest commercial broadcast groups.

The Autorité said it would now conduct an in-depth probe into the the acquisition of rights, the publishing and marketing of TV channels, distribution and advertising.

The regulator said the probe would take into account “the development of new uses” of audiovisual services and the “competitive pressure exerted by the digital operators” cited as a justification for the merger.

The regulator said it would seek the views of ARCOM, the new combined media and antipiracy watchdog that emerged from the fusion of the CSA and Hadopi agencies, and ARCEP, the country’s telecoms regulator.

The phase 2 probe should take 65 working days but may be extended if necessary.

France’s regulators and some major players, including Altice Media, have been notably supportive of the rationale for the merger. One exception is Xavier Niel’s Iliad Telecom/Free, which has been strongly opposed to the merger from the start and has called for a European-level investigation of it.


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