Poland acts over alleged World Cup pay-per-view price fixing

Poland’s leading pay-TV operators are being investigated by the country’s competition regulator for alleged collusion with sports rights agency Sportfive over the pay per view (PPV) pricing of qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup involving the national team.

Poland’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) has instituted anti-monopoly proceedings over the sale of rights to matches played by the national football team in September 2012.

"When examining the case, the president was concerned about the way of fixing prices for broadcasting football elimination matches for the 2014 Football World Cup,” the office said in a statement.

Fans were charged the same PLN20 ($6) to watch the match PPV via any one of 11 operators including UPC Polska, Cyfrowy Polsat, Vectra and Multimedia. According to the UOKiK, evidence clearly showed that Sportfive fixed the price paid by viewers to watch the matches at PLN20, and the regulator has initiated proceedings accordingly.

The UOKiK has indicated that the case may take at least five months to resolve, but could then result in fines equal to 10 percent of each company’s revenues in the year preceding the issuance of the decision.

This is an unusual case in that there is rarely little if any competition between TV providers in a given country for viewing premium events PPV because the rights are usually held exclusively by one operator. Price fixing cases in the broadcasting industry have tended to be confined to manufacturers of TV screens, with Toshiba, for example, having been ordered in July 2012 to pay $87 million after a U.S. court ruled that the Japanese electronics giant conspired with rivals to fix the price of LCD screens used in TVs in the early era of flat screens between 1999 and 2006.