A Stricter New Approach to Football Broadcasting Rights?

The TCA opened an investigation (available here) against Turkish Football Federation and Digiturk, a digital platform and the sole broadcasting right holder of the top-flight of the Turkish football league system (Süper Lig). The launched probe aims to uncover whether the parties extended their broadcasting agreement for further two years.

The roots of the investigation can be traced back to a prior board decision (available here), which rejects an exemption application by the aforementioned parties for their agreement for extending existing contract to cover three more seasons including 2017-2018 season.

Although the applicants emphasized that “the application is the result of extraordinary conditions and will be for the first and the last time”; the TCA underlined the importance of football broadcasting rights for competition among digital platforms and deepened its analysis to reveal whether the agreement fulfils the four conditions necessary to be granted an exemption.

Without delving into the first two conditions, the TCA decided to consider the last two conditions in detail. The TCA concluded that the proposed agreement had the potential to eliminate competition in the markets for broadcasting rights of Süper Lig matches, paid TV, digital platform and broadcasting over alternative technologies. Moreover, the proposed agreement was found to limit competition more than what is compulsory for achieving the first two conditions. Thus, the exemption was not granted.

The decision can be compared to the Commission’s UEFA Champions League and Premier League decisions in some aspects. Similar to the Commission, the TCA seems to recognise the importance of football broadcasting rights for pay-TV markets. In contrast, the TCA was not interested in the horizontal aspect of the agreement as the Commission considered firstly in UEFA Champions League decision; the TCA’s analysis rested on the vertical relationship between the provider of rights (TFF) and the broadcasters. The contrasted aspect is said to be crucial as it enabled the Commission to adopt stricter remedies such as sale of rights in packages.

Although, the TCA overlooked the horizontal aspect of the agreement, rejection of the exemption application may be the first indication of a stricter approach by TCA. To be confident on the exact outcome, we have to wait and see.

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