Sky may be forced to widen access

Premium sports, movie channels could be affected

LONDON -- In another day of bad news for Britain's most successful pay TV operator, BSkyB may be forced to offer its premium sports and movie channels to other platforms at lower rates, media regulator Ofcom said Tuesday.

Ofcom's long-awaited consultation on the pay TV market said that Sky's control of channels exclusively offering Premier League soccer and Hollywood movies give it de facto "market control."

"Sky is likely to limit the distribution of those channels to other retailers" and "may be able to set wholesale prices above the competitive level," Ofcom said.

Ofcom will now review Sky's wholesale pricing -- the amount it charges other platforms to carry its channels.

The news comes one day after Sky was told it must sell down its share in ITV from 17.9% to under 7.5%. On a positive note, however, Ofcom has nominally greenlighted Sky's plans for a digital terrestrial and broadband platform, dubbed Picnic, but Sky has been told it must offer the DTT sports and movie channels to other platforms as well.

Ofcom will close consultation on the latest phase of its inquiry into the pay TV market Dec. 9.