BSkyB Refuses to Air Ads for Rival BT's U.K. Sports Coverage

7:17 AM PST 04/08/2013 by Georg Szalai
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The telecom giant, set to launch networks with English Premier League soccer and other matches in a challenge to BSkyB, says the pay TV firm is engaging in "undue discrimination."

British pay TV giant BSkyB has refused to air TV commercials from telecom powerhouse BT that are promoting its impending launch of coverage of U.K. soccer and other sports, according to a complaint from BT.

The company has been preparing what is believed to be a multi-million-pound ad blitz to highlight the August launch of two networks that will carry English Premier League soccer games and other sports in a challenge to BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. owns a 39 percent stake.

BSkyB has long had the rights to most Premier League matches, with ESPN being the secondary rights holder in recent years. Last year, BT outbid ESPN for two packages of soccer rights in what analysts saw as a challenge to BSkyB, which has long been seen as the home of big sports events that don't air on public broadcaster BBC. It recently also agreed to acquire most of ESPN's U.K. TV business.

BT has now complained to U.K. broadcast regulator Ofcom that BSkyB is refusing to air TV sports promoting its new sports coverage, set to launch this summer. According to the Guardian, BT's complaint argues BSkyB is engaging in "undue discrimination." Ofcom is investigating the complaint.

"We are happy to take Sky's advertising, but they seem afraid of taking ours," John Petter, managing director of consumer for BT Retail, told the paper. "It's like a rottweiler running away from a newborn puppy."

“There many other avenues for BT to advertise its sports channels without seeking to take advantage of the investments that we’ve made to build Sky Sports," a BSkyB spokesman said. "It’s entirely reasonable for us to choose not to carry advertising for a directly competing service."

ESPN as a current Premier League rightsholder has run soccer ads on BSkyB's Sky Sports. However, it has a deal to carry BSkyB channels, while BSkyB carries ESPN. BT does not currently have a deal to air its sports networks on BSkyB.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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