Premier League to be probed on how it sells TV rights

The Premier League could be forced to overhaul how it sells the TV rights to matches after regulator Ofcom launched a probe into whether it its prices are too steep and consequently restricting competition.

The investigation follows a complaint from Virgin Media, which alleged the auction structure for packages pushes up prices and harms customers.

In particular, the probe will address the cable operator’s concerns about the number of live Premier League games are available, which at 41% it argues is lower than some other European leagues. Virgin Media says 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,” Ofcom says in a statement.

The probe will also consider the number of games that are moved from their traditional 3pm kick off times on Saturday to occupy more peak time slots on Saturday evenings and on Sundays. Ofcom will consult the Football Supporters’ Federation and other supporters’ groups to understand their views.

The move comes ahead of the next auction of broadcasting rights to Britain’s top football clubs. While a date has not been set for the next wave of bids, the regulator says it is “mindful” of its “likely timing” and is “open to discussion with the Premier League about its plans”.

Virgin Media, which has found itself squeezed in the fierce competition between BSkyB and BT Sport for the rights, ruled itself out of the next auction. It could, however, benefit from the cheaper prices if the rising cost of rights were tempered. Under the current three-year deal, BSkyB and BT Sport air a total of 154 games per season at an average of £6.5m per match.

Should the investigation find Premier league chiefs guilty of inflating prices then it could demand radical changes to the value of deals, sparking a knock on effect to the commercial income of clubs. TV rights to the League, which are shrouded in a complicated and secretive bidding process, are predicted to rise by 60%, equating to £1.6bn a year to be shared between the teams.

The Premier League did not respond to a request for comment by the time this article was published.

Latest from Marketing Week

PLEASE SIGN IN OR REGISTER. IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and inspiration that will help you develop as a marketer and leader.

Register and receive the best content from the only title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work, so we can make Marketing Week more relevant to you.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team and columnists will ask the biggest questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we will be your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Dedicated to developing your skills and helping you achieve marketing excellence. Find guidance on leadership, professional development and the latest industry jobs.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here