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Swisscom vows to fight on as watchdog rejects move against Liberty Global

Swisscom signSwisscom has vowed to continue to battle for the right to air Swiss ice-hockey, one the country’s favourite sports, after the country’s competition watchdog rejected its bid to implement ‘precautionary measures’ against Liberty Global, which holds exclusive rights to league games.

Swisscom and its content sister unit Cinetrade/Teleclub appealed to the regulator after Liberty Global’s local operating unit, UPC Switzerland, made ice-hockey exclusive to cable as part of its new MySports offering, details of which were released this week.

“That ice hockey fans are the only group among our customers to be excluded is clear discrimination. We regret this decision,” said Dirk Wierzbitzki, head of products and marketing and member of the group executive board at Swisscom.

“Ten years ago we built up an extensive ice hockey editorial board out of nothing, also establishing ice hockey as a type of TV sport in Switzerland. So it is particularly important for us that we can carry on with our comprehensive reporting in the future and we will fight on. As sport fans, we naturally will not give up so quickly.”

UPC welcomed the competition regulator’s decision and said MySports could now go on air as planned on September 8. It reiterated that it would not share ice-hockey rights with Swisscom. UPC said that its collaboration with 15 different cable partners meant that the competition would be available to over three million homes.

“This decision from COMCO does not surprise us and confirms that our path up to here has been the right one. MySports is an important step towards effective competition and will break up the former unfair monopoly regarding sports rights in Switzerland,” said Eric Tveter, CEO of UPC.

“It would have been paradoxical if COMCO had decided in favour of precisely the company that has abused its dominant position on the market for so many years. We are very confident that the outcome of the further investigation will be positive for us,”

UPC’s entry into premium sports poses a major competitive threat to Swisscom, which has previously dominated the sector. In addition to ice-hockey, MySports TV will air German Bundesliga football and other sports in a package for CHF25 a month, with a non-premium service also available.

Swisscom/Cinetrade and the Swiss cable industry have been engaged in a long dispute over the terms by which Teleclub, the Cinetrade offering, is made available to third-party distributors. Last year, the competition watchdog imposed a fine on the operator for failing to offer national football and ice hockey on non-discriminatory terms, which Swisscom appealed.

Swisscom maintains that what it describes as a “sophisticated, close-knit distribution system” benefits smaller cable operators and that the fragmentation of the Swiss cable industry – UPC aside – makes the distribution of pay TV services difficult.

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