Friday, May 27, 2005

Crack pipe

James Enck

Still sifting through lots of email, I find that a mega-Platinum value reader late last week called my attention to consultations on MSOs with significant power in the Dutch market (found here, for Dutch speakers or quick learners). Effectively, the Dutch regulator has extended the 18 EU market definitions to include broadcast as a 19th market, and kicked off a process for potentially imposing cost controls. This development is strangely absent from UGC's website... My reader's take on the consultations follow (his words):


All Dutch MSO's effectively have no competitors in their territories (nor has the consumer a real choice)
The 'big five' (UPC, Casema, Essent, Multikabel and Delta) together hold 93% of all subs
Small MSO's charge between euro 7 and euro 10 for a basic package ofsome 30 TV - the large MSO's charge from 14 to almost euro 16 (UPC) for the same
OPTA suspects that the 'big five' MSO's on the wholesale market make use of their monopoly to refuse entrance for competitors - and on both wholesale and retail markets to charge excessive rates, discriminate in price & quality, use delaying tactics and cross subsidize.
Intended measures:
OPTA differentiates between the small, not-for-profit utility-like MSO's and the big five- the small ones will have to explain to their subs how their tariffs are built up (some do this already)
The big ones will have to open their administrations to OPTA, so that the regulator can decide what tariffs will be acceptable
When excessive tarifs are discovered, the MSO's in question will be ordered to lower their prices.
An earlier decision by OPTA (June 2004) has some predictive value. They then decided, based on accountant reseach of Multikabel's bookkeeping, that at realistic network costs and a realistic ROI, Multikabel could charge euro 0.11 per 8 mhz video channel to Canal+ (so: 30 channels is euro 3,30, plus charges for content including advantages of scale would end up in an UPC rate of some euro 7 - effectively 50% of today's rate)
In the next 4 months the MVO's can send in their comments, in September the accountant research can start, leading to final decisions in mid 2006.


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