Mexico starts bidding for digital channels

Move threatens Televisa-TV Azteca duopoly

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s telco regulator Cofetel opened bidding for two new nationwide, free-to-air digital TV channels Tuesday — a move that will create a fundamental shift in the market long dominated by TV giant Televisa and its smaller rival, TV Azteca.

Applicants have 30 days to submit offers, after which the regulator has 30 days to make a decision, meaning that Mexico will announce the two new networks mid-August.

While it is theoretically possible for Televisa and TV Azteca to bid, a Cofetel board member, speaking to the local media, hinted that it is likely to deny them the opportunity.

The announcement, printed in the nation’s official gazette, also noted the significant, necessary investment Cofetel will be looking for in the bids with some estimates running north of $1 billion.

Referring to Televisa and TV Azteca, the announcement read, “The fact that two licensees take up close to 95% of all commercial stations in the country, 99.3% of the advertising and 98% of the audience means that the entrant must make a very large investment in infrastructure as well as offer a superior, or at least equal, alternative.”

The two new digital channels will be able to reach 93% of the population, roughly 104 million potential viewers.