In the grip of a TV recession, the Spanish government has softened tough restrictions imposed one month ago by the competition watchdog CNC on the merger between Antena 3 TV and La Sexta. This now paves the way for their planned joint operation and gives rise to a duopoly in the Spanish TV market with two main players: Tele 5-Cuatro and Antena 3 TV-La Sexta.

The new conditions are similar to the restrictions placed on Telecinco’s acquisition of smaller broadcaster Cuatro a year ago—the ability to sell advertising packages that include both company’s entire range of channels, a ceiling of 22 per cent average of all stations included in the advertising package and a three-year time period for the conditions, with an optional two-year renewal.

It is the first time the government has made use of the legal right to counter the competition authorities one month after the National Competition Commission (CNC) imposed a a five-year period in which Antena 3 was forbidden to market its advertising packaged with La Sexta group and imposed an 18 per cent ceiling. At that time, in view of the tough conditions, both groups ruled out the merger. Now, the government’s decision gives new life to the merger and lay the foundations for a duopoly in the market with Tele 5-Cuatro and Antena 3-La Sexta taking 74 per cent of the total TV ad market and around 50 per cent in terms of audience ratings.