In the second week of December 2021, the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) released the results of the National Survey of Audiovisual Content Consumption (ENCCA) corresponding to the years 2020-2021. In general terms, it shows trends similar to those observed in countries such as the United States, Canada and those that make up the European Union, perhaps at different rates, but in the same direction.
Taking into account the previous surveys published by the IFT, the percentage of Mexicans who consume audiovisual content through the Internet has increased notably in just six years. While in 2015 only 25.8 percent used the Internet to consume audiovisual content, for 2020-2021, 59 percent already did so. This means that within 6 years the number of Mexicans who consume audiovisual content on the Internet went from about 31 million people to just over 74 million, an increase of 140 percent.
Of those percentages of people who consume audiovisual content over the Internet, the ENCCA itself reports the percentages of people who “use pages or applications where a periodic subscription has to be paid”, which in the 2020-2021 survey was located by 51 percent. That is, in 2020-2021 around 38 million Mexicans watched audiovisual content for which they paid, as considered by the IFT. Although the regulatory body did not report this data for the 2015 and 2016 surveys, according to the other data that were reported, I dare to affirm that the number of Mexicans who consume audiovisual content over the Internet in exchange for a periodic fee multiplied between five and six times.
Why is this relevant? Among other reasons, because it tells us about a way of consuming audiovisual content that already represents an important portion of what we strictly consider as the market for paid or subscription audiovisual content, in which traditional pay television providers, satellite providers, converge. triple play service providers, and of course, digital platforms that provide their services through public telecommunications networks.
However, until now the IFT has avoided recognizing the elephant in the room, because the provision of audiovisual content over the Internet, with periodic subscription, fits perfectly into the definition of “Restricted television and audio service” provided for in article 3 of the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law, which states that it is the “associated audio or audio and video telecommunications service that is provided to subscribers, through public telecommunications networks, by means of a contract and the periodic payment of a pre-established amount” .
The latter is not minor, especially with the competence disputes that the IFT and the Cofece maintain regarding this specific service. In the same way, due to the analysis that the IFT is supposed to carry out in the context of América Móvil’s request, made based on a legal scheme that is the creation of a new company, named Claro TV.
I mention the above because by making a comprehensive analysis of the audiovisual content market in Mexico, IFT officials will be able to verify that we are not facing a market with competition problems for which the entry of a “good Samaritan” is necessary who promises invest a lot, even though historically it has shown to invest less than it should. We are facing a market in which local players of great weight participate, yes, but also global players with much greater weight, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney +, among others, whose services are already subject to regulation in various countries.
If the approach to analyze the market is wrong, the América Móvil group will become an additional obstacle to effective competition in our country by causing a reconcentration that will affect the entire telecommunications sector, exposing Mexicans to the permanent presence of a Preponderant Agent, which has not been able to be regulated effectively.
* The author is an economist.