The Fallacy Of Exclusivity
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jan 26 02:30:00 GMT 2005

Operators are trying to sign "exclusive" content deals for their closed networks. While they're looking for lock-in, these deals only serve to slow overall market growth for mobile content.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is apparently a bit upset that mobile operators are signing deals to get exclusive content, mainly for sporting events. The ACCC's complaint is that the end result may be anti-competitive -- which, more or less, is the whole point behind exclusivity.

The operators in question view it as a way to help build lock-in among users. Australian football fans, obviously, are going to be hard pressed to change carriers if only one offers video clips and highlights from AFL matches. While exclusivity deals are common on TV in places, the deals are exclusive to a channel, not to an overall provider. That's not the case when it comes to these deals with mobile operators.

Of course, the move towards exclusivity may be a short-sighted one among operators. Mobile data is still an emerging market -- one where people need to be convinced it's actually worth their time and money. Making it harder to access that content, or requiring them to subscribe to a specific provider's service isn't going to help matters. It will only get worse, of course, when one provider scores exclusivity on one sport, and another gets exclusivity in a different sport. Fans of both of those sports become torn -- and that doesn't make them particularly happy customers of either provider, who will appear to be preventing them from seeing the other sport they love.

While the ACCC thinks about stepping in and regulating on this issue, the various operators might want to rethink it entirely themselves -- not for "competitive" issues, but for general business ones. Any provider seen promoting easy access to any and all of this content is more likely to sign up users. By balkanizing the content world through exclusivity and walled gardens, it's simply going to shrink the overall market, and make people wonder why they should bother at all.