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Ofcom drops UK wholesale rules for Sky Sports

Sky SportsOfcom has removed regulation that requires Sky to offer its Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels to pay TV rivals in the UK on a wholesale basis.

In a statement today, the UK broadcast regulator said it has decided to remove the ‘wholesale must-offer’ regulation as Sky is now “widely supplying these channels to other pay TV providers on commercial terms”.

Ofcom first introduced the must-offer rule in 2010 to promote greater competition in the pay TV space, but began to review it last year, with Sky Sports now available on a range of platforms and devices.

Sky Sports is available through commercial wholesale arrangements with competitors including BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, said Ofcom.

It is also available on Sky’s Now TV OTT service, which can be accessed through EE TV boxes, streaming devices like Apple TV, as well as games consoles, smartphones and tablets.

In recent years, BT has also invested more than £2 billion on sports rights and now has a quarter of Premier League rights and exclusive live Champions League rights in the UK until the 2017/18 season, added Ofcom.

“The only supply arrangement for Sky Sports 1 and 2 under Ofcom’s wholesale must-offer regulation is with BT for its YouView service. Ofcom expects all providers to engage willingly, constructively and in a timely manner to ensure sports continues to be made widely available to viewers,” the regulator said.

BT responded by saying it was “disappointed” by Ofcom’s decision and will “consider its legal options” in light of the decision.

However, BT added it will continue to carry Sky Sports 1 and 2 in the meantime and urged Sky to behave “appropriately” so that it can continue to offer its customers access to the channels.

“We still believe that effective remedies are essential to address the failure of competition in the Pay TV market, in which Sky has had around 75% share of retail subscription revenues for more than 10 years,” said BT.

“We still believe that effective remedies are essential to address the failure of competition in the Pay TV market, in which Sky has had around 75% share of retail subscription revenues for more than 10 years.”

Ofcom said it will continue to closely monitor market developments and, if necessary, will “quickly step back in”.

A spokesperson for Sky said: “We are pleased that Ofcom has decided to remove the wholesale must-offer condition. As the evidence demonstrates, we are, and have always been, more than happy to make our channels available on other platforms.”