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Televisa says order is ‘harsh’

Media giant forced to carry competitors

Televisa must carry its competitions’ free-to-air channels if it wants to buy a stake in cabler TVI.

That is just one of the requirements slapped on the Mexican media titan by antitrust regulator the Federal Competition Commission (Cofeco).

It must also offer its popular broadcast content to cable competitors.

Mexico has no overarching must-offer/must-carry regulations for cablers; the ruling would curb Televisa’s negotiating leverage as the nation’s dominant broadcaster.

Televisa wants a 50% stake in Monterrey-based TVI. It has also loaned a holding company $258 million, which, pending regulatory approval, is convertible to a 49% stake in Cablemas, the nation’s second-biggest cable operator.

The broadcaster already owns the controlling stake in Mexico City’s only cabler, Cablevision.

Televisa called the ruling “too harsh” and said it would weigh its options. Analysts believe Televisa could find legal means to sidestep the ruling.

“The regulatory agencies are not strong enough yet to enforce this,” said Raul Ochoa, an analyst at HSBC in Mexico City. “Televisa wields an immense amount of influence.”

Mexico’s cable market is a fragmented confederacy of regional monopolies. Televisa is the first company making moves in what is expected to be a wave of mergers.

Industry shakeup follows implementation of triple-play regulations that will allow cablers to offer phone services and broadband and will also allow telco giant Telmex to offer pay TV.

Telmex is spending nearly $2 billion to roll out triple play in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Peru this year.

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