Is TV5-ABS-CBN collab anti-competition? NTC asked to probe planned Cignal-SkyCable monopoly which could lead to higher pay TV, broadband prices

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is being urged to look into the formation of a subscription television giant with the takeover of Cignal TV of bilyonaryo Manuel V. Pangilinan of Sky Cable of the Lopez family.

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Infrawatch PH convenor and former party-list congressman Terry Ridon warned that the reported Cignal-Sky union would not only create a pay TV giant but also further increase the broadband market share of PLDT, Cignal’s parent, with is takeover of SkyCable’s internet business.

The proposed Cignal-Sky is reportedly part of a bigger business collaboration between Pangilinan and the Lopezes who are close to merging the operations of free TV operator TV5 with content provider ABS-CBN.

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“Market control over the pay TV sector influences the price not only of TV content delivery, but more importantly broadband prices, as these services are typically tied to pay TV services,” said Ridon in a statement reacting to the NTC petition filed by a newly-formed advocacy group, Digital Pinoys.

Cignal TV has roughly 3.6 million satellite TV subscribers while Sky has 1.4 million subscribers and together, they will have 63 percent of the market, according to Digital Pinoys.

Digital Pinoys told the NTC ina June 28 letter that the union is anti-competitive and would lead not only to higher pay TV prices (with Cignal-Sky’s dominant position) but also broadband prices (Sky generated P8.5 billion in revenues in 2001 mainly from its fiber broadband).

“The core public concern in this acquisition is the pricing for broadband services, as both companies are leading broadband providers as well. With online work and schooling still a reality amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the government should step in to ensure that this prospective acquisition will not result in higher prices for internet users,” said Ridon.

Ridon suggested that TV5 and ABS-CBN focus their collaboration in content delivery partnership in TV5 and ABS-CBN instead of including pay TV and broadband.

“The more imminent concern for both groups is the NTC order requiring media companies to first secure regulatory approval for block-time arrangements. If the NTC finds both media companies in its crosshairs over block-timing, it might be far more difficult to secure approvals for this acquisition,” said Ridon.

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