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Cyclocross competition is an "engine" for subscriptions: Brussels Court of Appeal affirms BCA interim measures

December 2016

On 7 September 2016, the Brussels Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) in which interim measures were imposed on Telenet, SBS and the Verenigde Veldritorganisatoren (VVO) . As a result of these measures, Telenet no longer held the exclusive broadcasting rights for the Superprestige cyclocross competition.

The interim measures were imposed by the BCA after Proximus had filed a complaint. The complaint concerned the allocation by the VVO of the exclusive broadcasting rights for the Superprestige competition to Telenet without organising a transparent, non-discriminatory bidding procedure. Proximus had also objected to the fact that the competitions broadcast by Telenet were only made available to Telenet subscribers.

On 5 November 2015, the BCA imposed interim measures which forced the VVO to grant the broadcasting rights on a non-exclusive basis on fair and non-discriminatory terms to all interested parties capable of broadcasting the cyclocross competition in a proper manner. Telenet appealed this decision.

The Court of Appeal sides with the BCA and considers that the conditions for the imposition of interim measures have been fulfilled, namely the existence of an investigation on the merits, a prima facie infringement, and serious, immediate and almost irreparable harm. According to the Court, the BCA could, after a careful analysis, conclude that Telenet had prima facie abused its dominant position on the retail market for television services. Telenet had obtained the exclusive broadcasting rights for a long period of time (the 2015–2016 season through to the 2019–2020 season) and without an open, transparent and non-discriminatory bidding procedure.

The Court also considers that prima facie there is serious and almost irreparable harm, notably the switching by customers from Proximus to Telenet. According to the Court, the broadcasting rights for the cyclocross competition function as an "engine" for subscriptions. Furthermore, the Court confirms that the BCA can impose interim measures which not only benefit the complainant but also benefit other undertakings.

The interim measures were imposed for the remaining duration of the agreement or until the BCA adopts a final decision on the complaint.


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