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BT could lawyer up after Sky’s sport channels obligation removed

Ofcom decision comes one day after Sky Q set top box reveal

By Kelly Fiveash, 19 Nov 2015

BT has attacked Ofcom's decision to lift a five-year-long obligation on Sky to offer its sports channels to competitors in the market.

The UK's communications regulator confirmed on Thursday morning it was removing the regulation, which had required the broadcaster to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 on a wholesale basis.

Ofcom claimed that it no longer needed to apply such strict terms to Sky because the company now supplies sports "widely on commercial terms outside of regulation".

BT said it was angry at the decision and added that it was considering legal action.

The telecoms giant said: "We still believe that effective remedies are essential to address the failure of competition in the Pay TV market, in which Sky has had around 75 per cent share of retail subscription revenues for more than 10 years."

The comms watchdog has been separately investigating a complaint from BT, after it alleged that Sky was abusing its "dominant position by making wholesale supply of Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 to BT’s YouView platform conditional on BT wholesaling its BT Sport channels to Sky for retail on Sky’s satellite platform".

Ofcom's probe into that claim is ongoing.

On today's decision to end the "wholesale must-offer" rule, the regulator said that competition had increased in the Pay-TV market in Blighty. It flagged up BT's £2bn investment in its own sports offer. Ofcom said:

Should evidence emerge of practices which we consider to be prejudicial to fair and effective competition, we will quickly reassess the need for regulation. In particular, Ofcom wants to be sure that consumers continue to have access to, and a choice of, packages and services containing Sky Sports 1 and 2.

Sky had this to say in response to Ofcom's lifting of the obligation:

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.

Sky queues up Sky Q

On Wednesday, Sky unveiled a fancy new set top box, dubbed Sky Q, which will launch in early 2016.

Features include the ability to pause a show on one TV screen and pick it up in another room on a telly or fondleslab.

Sky claimed that a new Sky Q hub would "supercharge" a subscriber's broadband connection by turning Sky Q boxes into Wi-Fi hotspots for a stronger signal indoors.

The Sky Q boxes will apparently also be able to connect over electric wiring.

The Jeremy Darroch-run company did not reveal prices during its flashy reveal of the set top box, but we're quite sure this won't be a cheap upgrade for subscribers when it does land. ®

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