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UK Competition Tribunal Tells Sky to Sell TV Sport at a Fair Price to BT

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 (4:23 pm) - Score 1,043

After four long years of squabbling the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has today issued an interim ruling that upholds Ofcom’s original 2010 decision against BSkyB (Sky Broadband), which required the media giant to ensure that their Sky Sports channels are made available to BT’s broadband based YouView TV (IPTV) platform.

The case originally started in 2010 after the telecoms regulator imposed an obligation upon Sky that required the TV operator to offer wholesale access (‘Wholesale Must Offer’) to its Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 channels and at prices set by the regulator. At the time Sky was deemed to have significant market power in the wholesale provision of premium channels.

The case eventually went to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), which surprised some by ruling that Sky’s prices for the premium content were already fair and thus overruling Ofcom’s decision. Ofcom then complained that CAT’s ruling had failed to correctly consider the regulators findings concerning competition in the market and the case ended up before the Court of Appeal, which earlier this year sided with Ofcom and sent the case all the way back to the CAT (here).

Ed Richards, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said:

After more than four years of litigation and legal challenges, Ofcom’s 2010 pay TV decision continues to serve the interests of UK consumers and this ruling is consistent with our original decision.

Today’s ruling paves the way for more top sports to be available on another TV service and supports competition and innovation in the communications sector as we originally intended. Ofcom is now focused on reviewing the ‘wholesale must offer’ remedy in light of developments in pay TV.”

The ruling also follows last week’s Supreme Court decision, which effectively rejected Sky’s request to challenge Ofcom’s powers to impose their aforementioned remedy. However, much has changed since Ofcom’s original decision in 2010 and the UK Pay TV market is now a lot more competitive and dynamic, which means that Ofcom will need to publish a new consultation on the ‘Wholesale Must Offer’ situation in the “coming months“.

The new consultation will need to take account of all the recent changes and might well end up being more flexible than the original 2010 decision, especially in light of BT’s big push into the market for premium sports content with their BTSport channels (this is also given for free to BT’s own broadband subscribers). It’s just possible that Sky might also end up benefitting.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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