EPL blackout set for court; CSport accuses Digicel and Flow of “anti-competitive” behaviour over tv rights

The Verticast Media Group yesterday claimed to have filed an “anti-competitive lawsuit” against Digicel (Jamaica) Limited and Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited and Cable and Wireless Jamaica Limited (subsidiaries of Liberty Latin America) in the Jamaica Supreme Court.

Liberty Latin America operates the Flow network in the Caribbean.

The 2023-24 EPL title looks to be a three-way race between Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.

The alleged lawsuit looks to be the culmination of a two-year standoff between Verticast, Digicel and Flow over England Premier League television rights, which took a dark turn for Caribbean football fans in 2024 when Verticast’s CSport suddenly stopped offering matches to paid subscribers.

CSport’s only explanation to subscribers, who pay either US$3 per week, US$7.99 per month or US$77.99 per year, was a message which claimed the company was suffering “a critical failure of the feeds” and was “working around the clock to fix the issue”.

Verticast president and CEO Oliver McIntosh did not respond to requests for clarification or address rumours that his company was stripped of the right to air the Premier League due to non-payment.

However, yesterday’s release claimed that the Digicel and Flow cable television networks “employed anti-competitive practices to exclude VertiCast channels CSport & CSport2 from their pay television cable networks”.

Verticast president and CEO Oliver McIntosh.

Verticast Media aims to convince the Jamaica Supreme Court that the actions of Digicel and Flow stifled competition and limited consumer options.

On 3 August 2022, McIntosh spoke to Wired868 about his capture of the England Premier League television rights for a three-year period, in a wide-ranging interview.

McIntosh is the former president of Digicel SportsMax while Verticast chief commercial officer Carlo Redwood is a former Flow marketing executive.

At the time, McIntosh claimed to have successfully negotiated with “close to 40 cable operators” in multiple Caribbean nations.

Photo: An ad for Flow Sports.
(via Flow)

“We haven’t been able to sign with some of them, notably Flow and Digicel, but we are continuing discussions and hoping that we can find with them ways [to work together],” said McIntosh, in August 2022. “We have done our agreements with basically the same terms so that no operator is disadvantaged, and we made that same offer available to everybody.

“We have done it at reasonable terms based on industry standards… Having knowledge of the industry, we’ve gone out and done it at a rate that we think is acceptable to everybody—and it is proven by the fact that other cable operators are signing up.

“We are just hoping that in the interest of the subscribers in the region and persons who love the Premier League—like myself, and you—that all the cable operators will be on board by the time kick-off happens.”

Flow and Digicel did not sign up, though, and CSport turned to an app in an attempt to reach Caribbean football fans and, presumably, offset costs for the rights.

Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey dedicates a goal to Jamaican socialite Steffie Gregg, who died from Covid-19 during the pandemic.

McIntosh did not directly address the question of whether Flow and Digicel felt he used inside knowledge, as Digicel SportsMax president, to better their bid for the television rights.

“It is not about trying to bite anybody in the back or anything like that,” said McIntosh. “I think I have something to contribute to help the development of the industry. The way I saw it, the industry was not developing the way it should. So, I am going to play my part in trying to do that.”

Almost two years later, Verticast is arguing that the failure of Flow and Digicel to play ball is equivalent to anti-competitive behaviour.

CSport has offered no explanation to subscribers beyond this message.

“Despite VertiCast offering market terms, there has been no commercial terms in response from (Digicel and Flow),” stated the Verticast release. “This refusal, VertiCast contends, obstructs consumer access to content and distribution, undermining fair competition.

“VertiCast invested in content and distribution to create channels with content that is in high demand by consumers such as the English Premier League. We have gone above and beyond to work with the Defendants to provide their consumers with access.

“These attempts at negotiations have not been successful and thus we had no option but to stand up for both consumers rights and the rights of media companies in the industry.”

Manchester City goal sensation Erling Haaland (seated) celebrates another strike.

Neither Digicel nor Liberty Latin America have responded to VertiCast’s alleged suit, up to the time of publication.

VertiCast is also yet to directly address demands for rebates from its own subscribers, who are without England Premier League football now for roughly three months.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read media veteran and former DirecTV manager Bernard Pantin’s view on the stand-off between CSport, Flow and Digicel during a 2022 interview.

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  1. There cannot be any anti-competitive behaviour here from Flow and Digicel, unless they are physically cutting off the internet streams of the matches. They have the right to give access to whatever channels they like on their networks. Most probably the money Verticast asked from them made the inclusion of the Csport channels financially unattractive. Plus when the next bidding round for PL comes again these companies will most probably be bidding again so why should they put a competitors channel on their network. One suspects that Verticast have bitten of more than they can financially manage are are no running to the courts in a desperate act to try and save their bacon. I will be shocked if they win the case.

  2. I want to know when vericast is going to return our subscriptions monies. I also want to know why the big man is failing to even talk about returning the monies he stole from subscribers under false pretences. He seems to have money for legal fees but no money to pay back subscribers.

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