The proposed acquisition of Imagine at the hands of Future has hit a stumbling block.
The Competition and Markets Authority has found that the 14.2m deal, which was revealed in June, could damage the science fiction magazine market, as titles from other publishers offer only a limited competition constraint” to the twin force of SFX and Sci-Fi Now.
The CMA, however, was not concerned about other sectors in which the two companies overlap, including games and technology.
As a result, the merger will be referred for an in-depth CMA panel investigation, unless Future and Imagine can propose an alternative solution.
"These magazines are specialist interest titles and the readers are hobbyists or professionals,” the CMA's Sheldon Mills said. The companies put to us that the magazine industry has faced a structural decline due to growth of online advertising and readership. We found some evidence in this case that readers and advertisers consider online content to be a good alternative to print magazines, but not in all areas.
"In sci-fi, the evidence pointed towards print magazines serving a distinct need for readers and so, unless this aspect of the merger is changed, the merger may increase the incentive to raise the price or reduce the quality of those magazine titles - particularly to the detriment of the readers."