Mediapro -owner of the broadcasting rights for the World Cup in Qatar- awarded RTVE the broadcasting of this sporting competition at the beginning of the year. Although it has not been made public, the corporation would have paid some 35 million euros to broadcast the World Cup.
In order to make part of this investment profitable, RTVE began to market the sale of advertising space to be broadcast during the World Cup. As is well known, public television has been banned from broadcasting advertising since 2009, with some exceptions.
However, private broadcasters alerted the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) that RTVE was offering its advertising space to all kinds of advertisers and media agencies. In order to stop this practice, UTECA filed a letter with the CNMC on 22 September and Mediaset did the same a day later.
Both entities – in a very similar strategy – complained in their submissions to the public body that RTVE was offering its advertising space to the market. According to the complainants, these commercial practices were in contravention of the law on the financing of Radio Televisión Española. This law restricts the commercialisation of advertising by public television only when the holders of the broadcasting rights for sporting events of general interest (such as a World Cup) require their sponsors to have a presence in the broadcasting of the competition. In other words, in this case, RTVE could only sell advertising to FIFA’s sponsors.
Private broadcasters complained to the CNMC that the corporation was selling advertising space to all kinds of agencies and advertisers.
But UTECA and Mediaset complained that RTVE was circumventing these regulations and was offering the market in general to advertise in the World Cup. According to UTECA, the advertising marketing of the World Cup under the terms being applied by RTVE would have brought in some 15 million euros in revenue. A volume that for this association could produce “very negative effects on the interests of the rest of the operators in the audiovisual advertising market”. According to Mediaset’s complaint, this indiscriminate commercialisation on public television “would detract an important part of the television advertising investment that would otherwise revert to them (Mediaset)”.
Specifically, RTVE’s commercial offer for the World Cup included advertising blocks to be broadcast during the matches and during the promotional period of the competition. Some of these packages were called High Quality, Golden Break or Pre Ceremonia Copa. As for the addressees of this offer, the CNMC’s resolution states that “it does not expressly determine the recipients of the offer, so that, in principle, as it is a general commercial offer, it could be understood that it is aimed at the entire market of advertisers”. In their complaint, both UTECA and Mediaset also claimed that RTVE was commercially targeting all types of advertisers and agencies.
In fact, RTVE itself commented in its reply last month that “it should be noted that for FIFA it is essential to include the obligation to market sponsorships and other commercial opportunities, either preferentially to its own commercial affiliates, being rigorous with the terminology of the contract, and subsequently to the national team’s national sponsors and to the rest of the market”.
For this very reason, the thesis of the private broadcasters was endorsed by the CNMC which, in its resolution published last week, considers that there are “sufficient indications to understand that RTVE would be offering commercial spaces not only to FIFA affiliates or partners, but to the market in general”. This circumstance, says the CNMC in its resolution, “could not be compatible with the regulatory framework of the CRTVE and could have effects on the national advertising market by detracting revenue from commercial agents”.
As a result, the competition watchdog has urged the corporation to only market advertising that is indivisible from the FIFA affiliates or partners obtaining the World Cup rights in Qatar. These are brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, Wanda, Hinday/Kia, Qatar Airways, Qatar Energy and Visa, Budweiser, Byju’s, Crypto.com, Hisense, McDonald’s, Mengniu and Vivo.