UK regulators investigate BSkyB pay sports dominance

By Kevin Hilton
SVG European Correspondent

British broadcast regulator Ofcom announced Tuesday that is to investigate the UK Pay TV market, including BSkyB’s dominance of the satellite sector and its ambitions in digital terrestrial television (DTT), cable and delivery over DSL. The inquiry comes after Ofcom received a submission from a number of Sky’s rivals, including Setanta Sports, expressing concern at the broadcaster’s proposal to launch a Pay TV service on DTT.

After completing its investigation Ofcom will decide whether to refer the matter to the Competition Commission under the Enterprise Act of 2002. Other signatories of the submission with Setanta are BT (British Telecom), Top Up TV and cable operator Virgin Media (formerly NTL Telewest), which is locked in a bitter tussle with BSkyB over supply of channels for its packages.

BSkyB has withdrawn its basic services from the Virgin Media Pay TV platform, a move that has dismayed the British TV industry and lobby groups, including the National Consumer Council. Setanta is worried by BSkyB’s projected DTT service, which would operate on a new set-top box and conditional access specification. A spokesperson for Setanta said this amounted to BSkyB creating its own DTT Pay TV platform, adding that despite being made by the EU to give up some of its rights to Premier League football coverage the broadcaster still had a considerable share of the market.

In an unconnected review Ofcom is also looking into BSkyB’s acquisition of a 17.9 percent share in ITV plc, the dominant UK commercial broadcast network.