ACM clears acquisition of northern newspapers by media company Mediahuis

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has cleared the acquisition of Dutch publisher NDC mediagroep by Mediahuis. NDC is a relatively small competitor on the newspaper market. The acquisition will not have any effects for readers, and will not have any negative consequences on price, quality, and innovation in the sector. Sufficient competition will remain between the different national and regional newspapers. And on the advertising market, too, sufficient competition will remain. Parties have committed to continuing delivering at reasonable rates the morning papers of other newspaper publishers without their own distribution networks.

Mediahuis is the publisher of Dutch national newspapers De Telegraaf and NRC. In addition, Mediahuis also publishes regional papers in the western provinces of South Holland and North Holland, and the southern province of Limburg. NDC publishes regional papers Leeuwarder Courant, het Friesch Dagblad, het Dagblad van het Noorden, and various other regional papers and local papers. All of these titles are primarily distributed in the north of the Netherlands.

ACM has assessed whether the acquisition of NDC by Mediahuis would have any effects on the choice of newspaper readers, and on the options for advertisers. That turned out not to be the case. Little will change for readers of NDC’s regional papers. The daily newspapers of Mediahuis and NDC hardly compete with each other. The investigation revealed that regional radio stations and television stations (including their websites), and regional news sites are more important competitors than are the national newspapers owned by Mediahuis and rival publisher DPG (which owns national papers De Volkskrant and AD).

Sufficient competition will remain on the advertising market. In this market, too, DPG remains the largest competitor. In addition, advertisers also have the option of placing their ads online in order to reach their target audiences.

Newspaper delivery

NDC has its own delivery network for morning papers in the north of the Netherlands. Mediahuis and DPG use this network. In addition, publishers without their own distribution network also use this network. In order to prevent the prices or quality from possibly deteriorating for those publishers, Mediahuis has committed to applying reasonable conditions to the delivery of morning papers of other publishers without their own distribution networks. Those conditions and service are similar to those for the delivery of their own papers.

ACM and news media

The news media market is in a state of flux. Paid newspapers have seen their subscriptions go down for years now. Furthermore, more and more subscribers read newspapers online, whether or not combined with a paper version of that newspaper’s weekend edition. The newspapers’ advertising revenues have also been going down for years. Advertisers allocate an increasingly larger share of their advertising budgets to online channels. Concentrations in the media sector lead to a situation where only a few, major publishers of news media remain active. When assessing these concentrations, ACM examines whether consumers, advertisers and newspaper publishers without their own distribution network will continue to have sufficient choice.

ACM’s concentration control: mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures

With any merger, acquisition, or joint venture, there is a question of whether sufficient competition will remain on that market. Competition ensures that products are of high quality, and that they are offered on the market at competitive prices. It also promotes innovation. That is why ACM assesses in advance whether or not companies are allowed to merge or go through with an acquisition. ACM examines whether the markets involved will continue to work well for people and businesses after the merger or acquisition, now and in the future.

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