The deal, which the Australian competition authority greenlit today, is valued at around $2 billion and was originally agreed between the companies last year. News Corp owns 25% of Foxtel while John Malone’s Liberty Global is Austar’s biggest shareholder. The go-ahead was granted after Foxtel agreed to a series of concessions imposed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which sought to reduce the combined entity’s content exclusivity. Foxtel has committed not to acquire exclusive internet protocol television (IPTV) rights to dozens of channels including Nickelodeon, National Geographic, the Disney Channel and ESPN as well as rights to certain movie content. Among other commitments, Foxtel has agreed not to seek to acquire or renew exclusive new distribution rights to movies in linear channels or entitlement VOD services from more than 50% of the major studios or more than 50% of the eight key independent distributors in Oz. Telecom giant Telstra Corp owns 50% of Foxtel and the regulator feared the new company would stifle competition. “By reducing content exclusivity, the undertakings will lower barriers to entry and promote new and effective competition in metropolitan and regional telecommunications and subscription television markets,” said Rod Simms, chairman of the ACCC, whose full statement is here. Late last month, The Australian Financial Review published a report saying content security firm NDS, a company formerly controlled by News Corp, damaged News Corp’s Oz rivals including Austar by encouraging pirating of the companies. At the time, News Corp’s Australian arm News Limited said, “The story is full of factual inaccuracies, flawed references, fanciful conclusions and baseless accusations which have been disproved in overseas courts.”
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