BBC and Arqiva to offer BT DTT spectrum to broadcast Sky Sports

Joseph O'Halloran | 01-10-2010

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has given consent to the BBC and Arqiva to sell off unused DTT spectrum to BT who plans to make use of the paired capacity to retail Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2.

The deal potentially places the subscription sports channels into ten million Freeview homes, thus ensuring competition within the sector.

The process to commercialise the unused spectrum began in January 2010, and by May 2010, the BBC and Arqiva entered into agreements for On 23 and 26 July 2010, respectively, the BBC and Arqiva sought separate consent to broadcast Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 on DTT in circumstances where BT or Top Up TV (TUTV) are retailing either or both of those channels.

In its statement of 30 September granting permission for such usage, Ofcom says that it now recognises the consumer benefits can be achieved by matching and offering jointly to the market the BBC’s temporary and geographically limited spare channel capacity on Multiplex B and Arqiva’s channel capacity on Multiplexes C and D to be made available at Digital Switchover.

Ofcom’s permission states: “we recognise the significant consumer benefits that we expect to arise from giving consent and enabling Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 to be made available on DTT. In particular, we note that ten million Freeview households will, if they so choose, be able to access the most attractive sports content via their existing aerials, and competition between retailers should ensure a wide range of packages and choice.

"We note that TUTV would contract independently for access to Sky Sports 1 and SkySports 2 with BSkyB, allowing TUTV to retail those channels on DTT. Furthermore, we recognise that the BBC’s involvement in these arrangements is temporary and will expire at the completion of Digital Switchover.”

The Ofcom letters reveal the long process by which the BBC and Arqiva sought to offer jointly to the market spare capacity which has become available ahead of digital switchover and other capacity following it.

In circumstances, that Ofcom describes as unique, pairing the two portions of spare capacity would enable two additional national TV channels to be broadcast some time before the completion of digital switchover.