Sky could be forced to let BT sell Sky Sports channels on its YouView-based TV service following a ruling from regulator Ofcom.
The interim ruling follows four long years of legal wrangling, during which time BT has been prevented from offering customers Sky Sports channels on its newer BT TV service.
While YouView partners TalkTalk can offer its customers Sky Sports channels with TalkTalk TV, albeit only in standard definition, BT TV customers who want Sky Sports channels are forced into using the older BT Vision+ box and signing up for BT Infinity, BT’s FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet)-based broadband service, which is more expensive than typical ADSL broadband.
Ed Richards, Ofcom 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.”
In 2010, Ofcom attempted to address Sky’s perceived dominance of the pay TV market by forcing it to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 – home of Premier League football – at a discounted rate.
A subsequent 2012 ruling from the CAT (Competition Appeal Tribunal) saw Sky win an appeal against Ofcom’s 2010 decision. This 2012 ruling was then forced to be reopened after a successful appeal from BT this February, citing concerns with the CAT’s report.
This latest development now paves the way for BT to offer Sky Sports channels on its newer YouView-based service, which lets customers access a growing suite of on-demand services including BBC iPlayer, Dave on Demand and most recently Netflix.
Sky Sports 1, 2 and 5 are available on BT Vision, but when BT launched it’s YouView-based service, Sky argued the broadcast rights to its sports channels didn’t automatically transfer to the company’s new TV platform.
A BT spokesperson said: “BT welcomes today’s Court’s decision to grant supply of Sky Sports 1 and 2 to BT’s YouView platform.
“BT has always maintained that Ofcom was correct to impose the ‘wholesale must offer’ on Sky and this remedy remains essential to address the significant competition concerns with Sky’s supply of its channels. We look forward to being able to offer these channels to our YouView customers very shortly.”
Wholesale must offer means Sky should offer its Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels to other pay TV providers on a wholesale basis including other TV providers such as TalkTalk, as set out in a ruling formed in March 2010.
A Sky spokesperson said that the ruling was ‘a purely interim measure’ and it would have no impact on the ongoing discussion.
Ofcom will now look at how the pay TV market has developed since the 2010 ruling and will publish a consultation on wholesale must offer in the coming months.