U.K. Regulator Launches Review of BT Competition Complaint Against BSkyB

Wayne Rooney - P 2012

The telecom giant has argued that the pay TV company, of which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. owns 39 percent, has abused its market power in sports channel carriage talks.

U.K. media regulator Ofcom said Wednesday that it has opened a review of a competition complaint from telecom company BT against pay TV giant BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has a 39 percent stake.

In the complaint last month, BT argued that BSkyB has abused its market power in carriage negotiations for its Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 channels with BT. The talks focus on BT's wholesale offer of the networks via the You View digital TV platform.

BSkyB on Wednesday acknowledged the Ofcom review. “Sky considers BT’s latest complaint to be entirely without merit," a spokesman said. "We look forward to engaging constructively with Ofcom.”
Ofcom said that the BT complaint alleges that BSkyB is making the availability of the two sports networks conditional on BT also offering its three upcoming BT Sport channels to BSkyB. The channels, which have competed with BSkyB for key sports TV rights, are set to launch this summer.

"Ofcom may conduct an investigation where it considers there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that [regulations] have been infringed," the media regulator said. "Ofcom has now opened an investigation … into the matters raised by BT’s complaint and will consider whether Sky has abused a dominant position under U.K. and/or EU competition law."

Ofcom expects to issue a decision on any possible interim measures that may be necessary to giant BT relief in July.

The timing of the final ruling on the complaint wasn't immediately clear. "We will provide an update on timing following the decision on interim measures," Ofcom said.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai