Seven's hopes for CMH fade amid regulator concerns

Seven West Media's interest in making a bid for Consolidated Media Holdings (CMH) has suffered a setback after the competition regulator said it had concerns over rival free-to-air TV networks getting fair access to sports content.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has indicated that if Seven Network owned CMH the network could lock up sporting rights and get the inside run on future bids for sports content.

News Limited has bid $1.94 billion for CMH while Seven Network has previously asked the ACCC if it would be allowed to make a rival bid.

The ACCC today released a statement of issues in response to the Seven Network's decision to seek approval to make a bid for CMH, which owns 25% of Foxtel and 50% of Fox Sports Australia. The ACCC said “it was very important for free-to-air networks to have the opportunity to partner with Fox Sports or Foxtel in relation to the acquisition of sporting rights” either through a joint venture or an agreed sports package.

The regulator said Seven Network's potential ownership of Foxtel and Fox Sports Australia would have the potential to result in a “substantial lessening of competition in the free-to-air market by limiting the ability of Seven Network's rival FTA channels to effectively bid for premium sporting rights”.

The ACCC has invited interested parties to respond to today's statement. It will make a final decision by 11 October.

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