On Tuesday, the European Commission raided offices of several companies, including a Fox unit of Rupert Murdoch, involved in sports broadcasting rights, as part of possible cartel investigation.
In Europe, sports broadcasting has become an enormously big business, with networks dishing out billions of pounds in order to secure the exclusive broadcasting rights to games in the different top-flight sports leagues to bring in more viewers.
The EC said it carried out the unannounced inspections in several of its member states at a number of companies that are distributors of “media rights as well as related rights that pertain to different sporting events and/or the broadcasting of the same.”
The Fox Networks Group or FNG, which is an operating unit of 21st Century Fox part of Murdoch’s media empire that distributes cable and TV channels across the globe, said it is completely cooperating with the inspection by the EC after have its offices raided in London.
The Commission is concerned that companies that are involved might have been in violation of EU antitrust rules, which prohibit restrictive business practices as well as cartels, said a statement it released.
The statement went on to say that the unannounced inspections represent a preliminary step into possible anti-competitive practices and it does not represent that the companies inspected are guilty of such behavior that is anti-competitive nor does it represent a prejudgment of the EC investigation.
None of the companies that were hit with unannounced inspections were named by the Commission, but FNG confirmed that it was involved after a report was published in the Telegraph newspaper in Britain.
The news of such a raid arrives during a difficult period for Fox that is currently engaged in a series of deals that facing regulatory approval.
It is batting with Comcast as well as regulators in Britain to have the right to purchase the largest pay-TV business in Europe, Sky for approximately $15 billion, while also agreeing to sell several of its assets for about $52 billion to Walt Disney Co.
The Commission announced that there was not any legal deadline for the completion of its inquiries into the conduct of anti-competitiveness and that the EC investigations may end up be quite lengthy.