Plan gets approval from antitrust agency

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s antitrust agency has approved media conglom Televisa’s planned purchase of a stake in major Mexican cable company Cablemas on the condition that the nation’s dominant broadcaster share its free-to-air content with competitors.

The Federal Competition Commission (CFC) said Sunday that Televisa would have to offer its four broadcast channels to pay TV competitors and carry rival broadcast content on its own pay TV systems to gain authorization to purchase a 49% stake in Cablemas, which has more than 730,000 subs. Televisa has 90 days to comply with the ruling.

A Televisa spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

Televisa is attempting to expand its feevee holdings as part of its strategy to offer triple-play services of TV, Internet and phone and compete against dominant telco Telmex, which will begin offering TV service later this year.

Televisa owns a majority stake in Mexico City cabler Cablevision, which has nearly 500,000 subs and began offering phone service earlier this month.

The CFC had imposed must offer/must carry rules on Televisa last February when authorizing its bid to acquire a 50% stake in Monterrey-based cabler TVI. Recently, telco Maxcom complained before the CFC that Televisa would not provide Maxcom’s new cable service with Televisa’s broadcast channels.

The CFC’s most recent ruling sets the time limit for Televisa and increases its obligations to carry any broadcaster with at least 30% national coverage on Televisa’s satellite TV company SKY Mexico. SKY is the nation’s only satcaster with some 1.4 million subs.

In the past, Televisa has played hardball with its popular content. Its refusal to offer its channels to satellite TV competitor DirecTV was a major reason the company shut down its Mexico operations in late 2004.

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