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Com Hem and Telia embroiled in carriage dispute

Swedish cable television operator Com Hem has today (Thursday) claimed its carriage dispute with telco Telia “is not a matter of price”, after the country’s largest commercial broadcaster, TV4, and sister pay-television service C More were removed from its platform.

The blackout took effect yesterday (Wednesday) after Com Hem and Telia failed to agree terms on a new carriage deal. Telia had offered Com Hem the opportunity to show TV4 for free through the Christmas period to allow talks to continue, but Com Hem rejected this proposal in the belief it would harm its negotiating position.

Com Hem said in a statement today: “We understand that our customers are disappointed that we turned off TV4. But unfortunately, as the last resort, we are forced to shut down the channels to get Telia to negotiate with us.

“If we agree to TV4’s offer over Christmas, Telia will continue to duck our negotiations. It stops our work of making the largest digitisation in Com Hem’s history, which will give our customers better sound and image as well as even faster broadband speeds.

“We are forced to work hard… to get Telia to the negotiating table, and it is regrettable that customers are affected in the short term. Our hope is that the short-term (blackout) will help us secure customers long-term access to TV4 for all Christmas ahead.

“Of course, we are prepared to pay Telia for our rights. But we haven’t even got that far in the talks. In other words, it is not a matter of price. We met Telia for the first time on the evening of Tuesday, December 10, and offered to sit in the room until we agreed. They declined the opportunity, and in other words, still do not want to negotiate.

“We are ready to negotiate day and night and now hope that Telia will return to the negotiating table.”

The dispute comes amid escalating tensions between the two parties following notable changes in the Swedish media landscape. Earlier this month, Telia completed a SEK 9.2bn (€880.4m/$979.8m) deal to acquire media group Bonnier Broadcasting.

The deal resulted in Telia acquiring Bonnier brands including TV4 and C More, as well as Finnish pay-television broadcaster MTV, all of whom have significant sports interests. Com Hem was acquired by rival telco Tele2 in November 2018.

TV4 and C More chief executive, Casten Almqvist, said Tele2/Com Hem had demanded additional rights, while not being willing to pay extra for them. “This is a really tedious and unnecessary decision,” Almqvist said, according to the Digital TV Europe website.

“There is one thing that we do not agree on, but it is irresponsible to take it out on viewers. We have given Com Hem the opportunity to continue to show TV4 free until January 10. The fact that they do not even choose to accept this Christmas gift shows that they would rather impact TV at Christmas for the millions of Swedes who are their own customers than to find a solution.”