Ofcom kicks outs Virgin Premier League rights complaint

DetailsJoseph O'Halloran | 05 February 2015

UK broadcast regulator Ofcom has thrown out an action by cableco Virgin Media which attempted to halt the next bidding process for the TV rights to the English Premier League (EPL).

Virgin's complaint prompted Ofcom to initiate an investigation under section 25 of the UK Competition Act, and the regulator opened a consultation as part of its review of the UK's pay-TV 'wholesale must-offer' services pertaining to the joint selling arrangements by the Premier League for live, UK audiovisual media rights for Premier League football matches.

Further to this, on 28 January 2015 Virgin made an application requesting that Ofcom issue an 'interim measures direction', pursuant to section 35 of the Act, to require the Premier League to suspend the forthcoming auction of audiovisual rights to broadcast live Premier League matches until Ofcom had reached the next stage of its process in March 2015. Ofcom received submissions from the Premier League on Virgin Media's request.

Yet having considered the application, and submissions from Virgin Media and the Premier League, Ofcom has decided to reject the application as it does not consider that there is an urgent need to intervene to delay the auction. It noted that there would be a 'significant' gap, of around 17 months, between the auction and the start of the 2016/2017 seasons when broadcasting of the relevant matches will commence.

In the event that its investigation concludes that there is an infringement, Ofcom offered the assurance that it has the necessary powers to require the Premier League and Premier League clubs to make changes to arrangements for the broadcasting of matches within the time available before the start of the relevant season.