Brazilian regulator opens competition probe against Globo

Brazil’s national competition regulator, Cade, has opened an investigation into potential monopolistic practices conducted by media group Globo in the domestic football rights market.

Cade, which is an agency of the Brazilian government, has opened the probe following a complaint from an unnamed club. Given the complaint came from a single source, Cade has said it needs to investigate and gather testimony from those directly involved.

Citing extracts from the Cade technical filing, the UOL Esporte website revealed that the regulator is taking action due to indications of monopolistic practice across multiple fronts. Chiefly, these involve Globo’s disputes with pay-television broadcaster Turner and Campeonato Brasileiro Série A club Flamengo.

Globo last month filed its latest claim against Turner after alleging that the broadcaster had illegally acquired rights to a number of Série A matches. Globo’s claim was filed in Rio de Janeiro’s Third Civil Court and demanded that Turner is banned from broadcasting any matches involving teams that have pay-television broadcast deals with the media group.

Globo’s argument rested on the 2011 Pay TV Act as it alleged that Turner’s acquisition of matches recently through the MP 984 measure constituted an “economic abuse”. MP 984 was introduced by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro earlier this year and places sole control of a club’s media rights in the hands of the home team. Both the home and away team were previously required to reach an agreement over a broadcast deal prior to its introduction.

Cade is thought to be analysing whether the filing of the lawsuit against Turner represents intimidatory tactics that make it more difficult for others to enter the market.

In July, Globo cancelled its contract with the Carioca State Championship amid an escalating conflict with Flamengo over the Rio de Janeiro-based club’s broadcast rights. Globo had said that it would continue with its payments for the 2020 season, but cancelled its agreement after Flamengo broadcast a match against Boavista on its own platforms.

As a result, Globo took the decision to not broadcast a single match from this season’s Carioca league, ending its deal with the Rio de Janeiro State Football Federation (FERJ) and the clubs. The broadcaster held rights to the Carioca State Championship with 11 of the competition’s 12 teams – Flamengo being the sole outlier. Flamengo had been dogged in its plans to broadcast its state league matches on its FlaTV channel in the wake of MP 984.

The Cade document read: “The broadcaster, with the conduct, would be preventing the club from autonomously determining the negotiation of its games, the rule of agreement made possible the establishment of de facto monopolies in football championships.”

The regulator is also said to be looking at whether Globo has established a stronghold by dint of having free-to-air, pay-television and pay-per-view platforms that leave clubs with little other option when selling their rights.

The document read: “Through this practice, Grupo Globo induces clubs not to negotiate with other broadcasters, either for products of interest to Globo or even for those that the company does not intend to acquire.”

Cade has until the end of March 2021, potentially extendable until May, to conclude its probe and determine whether Globo has a case to answer.

Globo is the dominant broadcaster of domestic Brazilian football, holding free-to-air and pay-per-view rights to all 20 Campeonato Série A clubs and pay-television rights of 12 Série A clubs.

On Saturday, the broadcaster announced its acquisition of pay-television rights to tennis’ French Open.