UK Regulator To Probe BSkyB Over Withholding Claim Lodged By Rival BT

The battle between BT and BSkyB continues to mount with UK regulator Ofcom opening an investigation into the News Corp.-controlled pay-TV group on the back of a complaint brought by BT. In the claim, which BT filed in late May, the group alleges that BSkyB has engaged in an abuse of dominant position by withholding its sports channels from BT’s YouView platform unless BT supplies its own sports channels to Sky for retail on Sky’s platform. Ofcom says it believes there are reasonable grounds for suspecting an infringement under the 1998 Competition Act and will consider whether Sky has abused a dominant position under UK and/or EU law. BT and Sky have become fierce competitors especially where sports, notably soccer, are concerned. BT is in the process of acquiring ESPN’s UK and Ireland TV channels business and is launching a new Sport TV package this summer which it is offering for free to its broadband customers. BSkyB and BT share the rights to Britain’s Premiere League soccer games with the former holding 116 live matches and the latter 38. The season kicks off in August. Sky said today it considers BT’s complaint to be “entirely without merit.” Sky group director of corporate affairs Graham McWilliam added, “In long negotiations with BT, we have tried hard to uphold a simple principle of mutual supply so that both of us would offer all our customers all Premier League matches from next season. However, BT has remained intent on a one-way deal which is loaded in its favor. This is not something that we – or anyone else – could reasonably have been expected to agree to.”

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