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The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission could hand Foxtel and Austar 97% of the Australian pay TV market with Telstra who own 50% of Foxtel holding a share of the remaining 3% via their Big Pond Movies and T Box service a leading ISP has claimed.Michael Malone, the CEO of iiNet who sells the Fetch TV service, believes this is a dominant position and that the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) should make it a condition of their proposed merger that they make some of their exclusive sports programmes available to Smart TV and set top box operators before Foxtel is allowed to merge with Austar.

In an interview with The Australian, Malone said it was “pleasing” that Foxtel and Austar might be considering making some of their exclusive content available to ISPs as part of their undertakings to the ACCC, but he said the crown jewel was sport and that this also needed to be made available more broadly to ISPs.

“The issue we have about the merger is not about the television market but about access to content,” Malone said. “If the merger is allowed to go ahead, it will mean the merged company has 97 per cent of the pay-television market, which will give them a lot more muscle in their dealings with content owners.”

“Why not make sport available as well? It is important that it is available to everybody,” he said.

Malone said the anti-siphoning regulations meant the consumer saw major sports.

“But when it comes to other premier sports, there is a concern that if they still remain exclusive to the merged Foxtel and it is not available to anyone else.”

Malone was quick to point out that Telstra who has a whole team working on the Foxtel-Austrar merger was already doing exclusive deals for sports programming with Telstra

Austar’s shareholders will meet on March 30 to consider Foxtel’s offer of $1.52 a share. Austar shares closed at $1.33, up 7c, yesterday.

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