Spain's pay-DTT - on or off?
Just hours after Spain's government announced it had given the green light to pay TV on DTT, it backtracked slightly, adding that the implementation would require the agreement of the government – not yet a given.
But the authorization of the government for pay-DTT licences may yet come, after the Cabinet has had a chance to decide on a report from the State Council.
Some television market sources claim the goverment has put off the approval of payment on DTT due to the influence of the media group Prisa-Sogecable. The group may not be interested in the immediate approval of payment on DTT - at least not until it can secure the sale of its satellite pay-TV operator Digital+.
The government considers payment on DTT will carry "important benefits", for the general public as well as for the private TV channels and set-top manufacturers.
"Citizens will be able to access higher quality contents so prompting the transition to DTT," said the government in a press release.
But at the same time the government has assured concerned citizens that the implementation of payment on DTT "won't mean the users won't be able to view interesting sports events in-the-clear". That refers to the law regulating the televising of popular sporting events that includes the obligation to broadcast live and in-the-clear one match per matchday from the Spanish Soccer League. Also included to be broadcast free-to-air are sporting events every year defined as of 'general
If the government finally decides to allow pay-DTT, the move would allow Mediapro, owner of laSexta, to introduce payment for soccer matches from the Spanish league. Mediapro has been fighting with Sogecable, owner of Digital+, over the rights to the league. Mediapro has the main soccer rights for the next five seasons until 2014.
As this news came out, so did the first reactions of the protagonists of Spain's DTT. Mediaset's Telecinco said the private broadcaster considers "payment on DTT is not a priority for Spain's television and it only benefits those who over the past few years bought rights exploitable for this business television model", a clear reference to Mediapro.
So Telecinco has asked that pay-DTT be put off for five years until Mediapro's rights expire in order to be able to compete under the same conditions.
On the other side, Mediapro's laSexta celebrated the news since the channel has been asking for the adoption of the pay-DTT model for a year now. LaSexta has also asked the government to modify the present DTT licences in order to be able to offer payment on DTT.
Viewers associations were also happy with the news since they believe it will be more dynamic for the DTT panorama. "We believe payment on DTT will push DTT implantation in Spain. At the same time it's compatible with maintaining the in-the-clear transmissions of sporting events of general interest.” These associations also believe the news opens the door to digital interactive services.
Moreover, all actors involved in pay-DTT -broadcasters, network operators, manufacturers - would have to abide by article 24 of the Market Law. This law establishes among others some obligations guaranteeing the existence of boxes compatible with different devices of encryption so viewers can access all pay-TV channels through an only one decoder.