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Football fans could face expensive future as Ofcom relaxes competition regulation –Comment

  • As of today, Ofcom relaxes its 'wholesale must-offer' regulation designed to ensure Sky Sports 1 & 2 is available through alternative providers
  • Ofcom believes increased competition from BT (BT Sport) and other pay TV providers makes regulation no longer necessary
  • Relaxation opens the door to Sky potentially withdrawing availability of Sky Sports to BT customers
  • Football fans who want to continue to watch the Premiere League (Sky Sports) and Champions League (BT Sport) could face a more expensive future

19 November, 2015: Ofcom has today announced the relaxation of its 'wholesale must-offer' regulation. The regulation, introduced in 2010 to ensure fair competition in the pay TV marketplace, specifically with regards to Sky Sports 1 and 2, previously prevented Sky from denying access to its sports channels through alternate providers.

Ofcom contests that the regulation is no longer necessary in light both of BT's £2bn investment in its own BT Sport offering and increased competition visible across the pay TV marketplace. However, the relaxation of the regulation does open the door to Sky potentially withdrawing availability of Sky Sports from BT YouView (BT TV) customers.

Dan Howdle, consumer broadband, TV and mobile expert at Cable.co.uk had this to say about the move: "Any football fan should be troubled by this news. Specifically when it comes to football the UK market is now split relatively equally between Sky Sports and BT Sport.

"When it comes to other types of broadcast – drama and entertainment programming, for example – more competition in the marketplace generally drives down prices. However, since football is a finite resource, the same rules do not apply.

"Up until this point, football fans could subscribe to BT TV and receive Sky Sports as an add-on or vice versa. Although relatively expensive by the standards of non-sport, non-movie pay TV, it has to this point constituted the most economical option to football fans who want to ensure they don't miss any of the action.

"Sky has at this time announced no plans to withdraw availability of Sky Sports from BT TV customers. However, the removal of this regulation now allows them to do so.

"Should Sky decide to take that route, football fans will face paying considerably more than they currently do. I hope for the sake of football fans everywhere that Sky does not."

Original Ofcom press release can be found here.

Sky's official response can be found here.

Notes to editors

  • Sky Sports 1 & 2 on BT TV currently cost £22 per month. Should Sky Sports 1 & 2 be withdrawn from the service, BT TV customers would either have to pay for a monthly Sky Sports Now TV subscription (streaming over the internet) at £31.99 per month, or subscribe to Sky TV and its Sports Bundle (via satellite dish) for £45.50 per month

  • If using our research and/or commentary we would deeply appreciate a link either to this page or to https://www.cable.co.uk

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Dan Howdle has been plugged into the attitudes of UK broadband, TV and mobile customers for over two decades. Having spent 12 years at the coalface of consumer telecoms research, initiating and running projects both nationally and internationally on behalf of the biggest players in the industry. Dan is now Director of Communications and in-house consumer telecoms expert for Cable.co.uk.

An experienced broadcaster, commentator and writer who frequently appears on BBC TV and radio, ITV, Sky and in the national papers and their websites, Dan leads a team of journalists and communications folk who spend their days researching and reporting on problems faced by UK broadband, TV and mobile customers both on an individual and macro level.

Dan campaigns on many issues currently facing consumers of broadband, TV and mobile products in the UK. These include, but are not limited to: Rural broadband provision; mobile coverage; broadband, TV and mobile customer contract issues; broadband and mobile broadband speeds; switching and money-saving; infrastructural challenges; pricing, changes and structures; shifts in technology and the marketplace; telecoms regulation, policy and law; fines, adjudications and policy changes; mergers and closures of UK providers; annual financials and more.

Dan has advised Ofcom on issues surrounding service quality. He also administers and adjudicates the yearly Broadband Service Quality Awards and sits on the panel of judges for the Internet Service Providers Association annual awards.

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