Ofcoms influence on broadcasters selling the rights to their channels

The rights to broadcast FA Premier League football matches

The rights to broadcast live matches for the Football Association Premier League are sold on a collective basis by the Premier League with the income being distributed to the clubs.

The role of Ofcom in the United Kingdom television market

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) is the broadcasting regulator for the United Kingdom. They have the power to create codes of practice which must be adhered to by television channels and they have the power to make decisions which are thus binding on the television channels.

Has Ofcom made any recent decisions in relation to the broadcast of live football matches in the United Kingdom?

The television company Sky is the company which owns the rights to the vast majority of the live Premier League fixtures. Accordingly if consumers wish to watch live Premier League football matches they will be required to subscribe to Sky Sports in which to do this.

However, there is another option open to the consumers in the fact that they will be able to subscribe to another form of digital media such as Virgin media whereby many of the Sky channels can be shown.

How are these other services able to show Sky’s channels?

Sky is able to sell these channels to other digital media broadcasters by wholesaling the rights to these channels. This means that packages of these channels are sold by Sky to the other operator meaning that legally the other operator will be able to broadcast the matches.

Who decides on the price by which these channels are sold?

The decision on the price of these channels was originally decided by the company selling the rights to the channels on a wholesale basis – Sky. However, this has recently come under scrutiny from Ofcom who state that a change is required.

Why is this change required?

Ofcom made a decision that the price by which Sky was selling these rights was too high and that these should be offered on a discounted basis.

What was the reasoning behind the decision?

The reasoning behind the decision of Ofcom was that the high prices were restricting the ability of the other digital media operators in buying the rights to show these sky channels. The upshot of this is that the availability of these channels to the end consumers is restricted as the only way they can gain access to these channels is by purchasing Sky.

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For more information on:

  • Was the decision by Ofcom taken on a legal basis?
  • Will there be a challenge against the decision of Ofcom?
  • On what grounds will this challenge be brought?
  • What is the reasoning for this view?
  • Is the challenge likely to succeed?
  • Title and Description
  • Ofcom challenge to prices for broadcasting live football matches