Televisa cleared to grab Cablemas stake

Media giant can expand pay TV, Net services

MEXICO CITY -- Federal regulators on Tuesday gave Televisa the green light to acquire a 49% stake in cable firm Cablemas, allowing the Mexican media giant to strengthen its grip on the pay TV market.

In February 2007, Televisa gave Cablemas a $258 million loan with the option of converting the notes into a 49% stake. With the go-ahead from Mexico's antitrust watchdog, Televisa now has the opportunity to expand its pay TV, Internet and IP telephony services nationwide.

Cablemas is Mexico's second-largest cabler, with nearly 800,000 television subscribers and about 220,000 broadband Internet clients.

Televisa dominates the broadcast TV market and it owns Mexico City-based cable firm Cablevision and Sky Mexico, the nation's sole satcaster.

In order to level the playing field, Mexico's antitrust commission on Tuesday said Televisa must offer its free-to-air content to rival cable companies for a set fee, and its pay TV systems must carry competitors' channels.

Televisa is aggressively seeking consolidation opportunities in the cable TV industry. The company also has purchased a 50% stake in TVI, a large cabler in northern Mexico.

Federal Competition Commission president Eduardo Perez Motta said the must-offer condition will create more competitive market conditions. Critics, however, say Televisa's consolidation efforts are likely to squeeze some of the smaller players out of the market.