Uruguay limits pay-TV share, licenses, advertising

DetailsJuan Fernandez Gonzalez | 30 December 2014

Uruguay's parliament has sanctioned a new audiovisual law which is to limit pay-TV operators' share in the market, the number of licences available - especially regarding foreign investors – as well as advertising.

The Ley de Servicios de Comunicación Audiovisual, which has been debated for over a year and a half, aims, according to the government, to prevent media monopolisation as well as making the licensing process more transparent under the criteria of plurality, diversity and public interest.

But the audiovisual industry has a different view of the new regulation which is introducing important changes affecting the market's future. Pay-TV market share will be limited to 25% of total subscribers, meaning each operator can own a maximum of one in four Uruguayan subscribers.

New licences are also to be limited, as new operators' capital has to be placed in the country, preventing de facto foreign operators to enter the market as regular subsidiaries. "I don't want Clarín, Globo or Carlos Slim to become owners of Uruguay's telecoms," said José Mújica, former president and supporter of the law.

The evolution of some operators will be difficult to place within the new legal framework, as DirecTV has seen a spectacular 36.5% growth according to latest official figures from Uruguay's Unidad Reguladora de Servicios de Comunicaciones (URSEC).

According to the figures, Uruguay was close to having 700,000 subs by June 2014, representing a 10.4% growth compared to a year earlier. Although a big slice of the market is occupied by many local cable operators (31%), DirecTV leads the country's pay-TV with a 21% share, followed by Cablevisión (10%) and TCC (8%).

The new law also establishes a canon for using the radioelectric spectrum, measures to increase the national production and limits to advertising, authorising a maximum of 15 minutes of advertising per hour both on pay-TV and free-to-air (FTA) TV.