Ofcom will look at the way Premier League games are sold following a complaint from Virgin Media.
The pay TV provider raised concerns with telecoms regulator Ofcom earlier in the year, citing the combined cost of both Sky and BT’s sports packages, which Virgin Media claims is the most expensive in Europe.
Now Ofcom has agreed to launch an investigation which could potentially see costs fall and 3:00pm Saturday games – currently banned from live broadcasts – be put up for auction.
The English Premier League is considered the worst value for money top-level league in Europe because of the Saturday blackout. Introduced in 1992 to protect crowd attendances at grounds, the blackout means that just 41 per cent of Premier League games are shown live.
In Europe, 100 per cent of games are shown for as little as £10/month in France, £18/month for Spain, £21/month in Germany and £25/month for Italy. In the UK, prices for all of the available Premier League games vary between £40-£60/month depending if you want to watch games in SD or HD.
Tom Mockridge, CEO at Virgin Media said, “Ofcom’s announcement today is welcome news. The Premier League is a global success story and one of the UK’s greatest exports and everyone wants that to remain the case.
“The fact remains that fans in the UK pay the highest prices in Europe to watch the least amount of football on TV. Now is the right time to look again at the way live rights are sold to make football even more accessible. We look forward to working constructively with the Premier League, the wider industry and Ofcom to ensure a better deal for football fans.”
Ofcom’s investigation will examine whether or not the way games are sold are in breach of competition laws.
The Premier League said: “We note that Ofcom has launched an inquiry. Ofcom has stated that this is at an early stage and it has not reached a view as to whether there is sufficient evidence of any infringement.
“The Premier League currently sells its audio-visual rights in a way that is compatible with UK and EU competition law and will continue to do so.”
Ofcom is seeking guidance from the Premier League, broadcasters, the Football Supporters’ Federation and other supporters’ groups. Dates for a consultation have yet to be announced.
In related news, the regulator recently ruled that Sky should let BT sell Sky Sports channels to customers with YouView-based boxes. Due to a protected legal spat, Sky Sports 1, 2 and 5 are only available to BT TV customers with the older BT Vision TV boxes.