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Bagging bundle benefits in broadband and media mergers: Lessons from Sky/Vodafone for antitrust analysis

Bronwyn E. Howell and Petrus H. Potgieter

Telecommunications Policy, 2019, vol. 43, issue 2, 128-139

Abstract: The historic precedents in telecommunications antitrust findings have tended towards finding harm to competition when network operators integrate downstream and bundle the provision of applications and services. The reason for this is that market power in network provision is thought to be extended into the applications market(s). More recently however, proposed mergers have been between telecommunications and media distribution firms, both of whom have some degree of market power, already sell their own services in bundles, and who may or may not have been offering combined bundles already via contractual agreements. Examples include Sky/Vodafone in New Zealand, and Time Warner/AT&T in the United States as well as Vodafone/Unitymedia in Germany and Media Capital/Altice in Portugal. These complex proposed arrangements pose challenges to competition authorities, whose legal and procedural rules and precedents, especially those defining the relevant markets affected by the merger or vertical integration activity, have been developed from the analysis of simpler cases. These precedents may not be sufficient to analyse current cases, characterized by multiple products catering to heterogeneous consumer preferences, and consumers are not constrained to buying only one variant of the products in each of the upstream and downstream markets.

Date: 2019
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