When the takeover was announced, Bauer chief executive Brendon Hill said he didn’t expect any issues with getting regulatory approval as the magazines’ major competitors for ad dollars were the tech giants and Google.
The ACCC begged to differ. “While there is free online content available that resembles the content in these magazines, many consumers still value the physical format of magazines, the packaging together of stories, puzzles, prizes and other content, and the style of the articles produced by each magazine,” Mr Sims said.
The regulator said it was “acutely aware of the dramatic decline in magazine revenue, both in terms of lost advertising and reduced sales”, yet took the “preliminary view that many readers have a strong preference for print magazines in the key weekly categories.”
With Pacific Magazines and Bauer the only magazine publishers in some of those categories, their titles “appear to compete head-to-head on content and cover price,” Mr Sims explained. Their key titles “remain profitable, and in some cases average more than one million readers per issue.”
Another area of concern was the prices the supersized publisher would pay content providers, including photographers, the competition watchdog said.
The ACCC has invited submissions by interested parties by February 14, with a final decision on the deal scheduled for April 2.