The Spanish NCA adopted last week its long-awaited decision
with regards to the sale of television rights for the national football championship. The essence of its decision is simple: agreements concluded between football clubs and television operators for a period exceeding three years are anticompetitive. In this regard, the Spanish NCA simply follows the rule of thumb, later to become a dogma, introduced by the European Commission in the UEFA Champions League case.
Why should a three-year ceiling for exclusivity agreements be always justified? it would seem that the new entrants challenging the position of incumbents may need a longer exclusivity period. In this sense, the three-year rule may paradoxically contribute to dominant positions of incumbent pay-TV operators becoming entrenched. A case-by-case analysis of the context surrounding the agreement would seem more appropriate to avoid false positives.
The rise of the three-year rule to dogma status may be explained by the “complex economic assessments” involved in establishing rigorously the anticompetitive effects of agreements on a case-by-case basis…
PS. Thanks go to Pablo Ibañez for very valuable discussions on this issue.