Ofcom has opened an investigation into how the Premier League sells live UK audio-visual media rights for Premier League football matches.
The investigation will be carried out under the Competition Act and follows a complaint from Virgin Media, which was submitted to Ofcom in September.
As set out in section 25 of the Competition Act, Ofcom may conduct an investigation where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is an agreement which has as its object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the UK and/or the EU.
Ofcom will consider whether there is a breach of the UK and/or EU competition law prohibition on agreements and decisions which restrict or distort competition.
Virgin Media’s complaint alleges that the arrangements for the ‘collective’ selling of live UK television rights by the Premier League for matches played by its member clubs is in breach of competition law.
In particular, the complaint raises concerns about the number of Premier League matches for which live broadcasting rights are made available.
Virgin Media argues that the proportion of matches made available for live television broadcast under the current Premier League rights deals – at 41% – is lower than some other leading European leagues, where more matches are available for live television broadcast.
The complaint alleges that this contributes to higher prices for consumers of pay TV packages that include premium sport channels and for the pay TV retailers of premium sports channels.