Ofcom has announced the relaxation of its ‘wholesale must-offer’ regulation. The regulation, introduced in 2010 to ensure fair competition in the pay TV marketplace, specifically with regards to Sky Sports 1 and 2, previously prevented Sky from denying access to its sports channels through alternate providers.
Dan Howdle, consumer broadband, TV and mobile expert at comparison site Cable.co.uk said: “Any football fan should be troubled by this news. Specifically when it comes to football the UK market is now split relatively equally between Sky Sports and BT Sport.
“When it comes to other types of broadcast – drama and entertainment programming, for example - more competition in the marketplace generally drives down prices. However, since football is a finite resource, the same rules do not apply.
“Up until this point, football fans could subscribe to BT TV and receive Sky Sports as an add-on or vice versa. Although relatively expensive by the standards of non-sport, non-movie pay TV, it has to this point constituted the most economical option to football fans who want to ensure they don’t miss any of the action.
“Sky has at this time announced no plans to withdraw availability of Sky Sports from BT TV customers. However, the removal of this regulation now allows them to do so.
“Should Sky decide to take that route, football fans will face paying considerably more than they currently do. I hope for the sake of football fans everywhere that Sky does not.”
Ofcom contests that the regulation is no longer necessary in light both of BT’s £2bn investment in its own BT Sport offering and increased competition visible across the pay TV marketplace. However, the relaxation of the regulation does open the door to Sky potentially withdrawing availability of Sky Sports from BT YouView (BT TV) customers.
A Sky spokesperson said: “We are pleased that Ofcom has decided to remove the WMO condition. As the evidence demonstrates, we are, and have always been, more than happy to make our channels available on other platforms.”