BSkyB have received a nasty surprise today as a UK court has ruled that they must make both Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 available for viewing on rival TV operator BT’s YouView service. The news comes after four years of hard fought litigation between Ofcom (the regulator) and BSkyB after Ofcom stated that Sky must obey the Wholesale Must Offer (WMO) rule on Sky.
Sky had been hoping the court would overturn the decision that Sky had to begin offering its channels to a wider number of services amid fears that its unique selling points were slowly being eroded from all sides. As the second of such decisions it follows that the final ruling, due in the not too distant future, will be unchanged, leaving Sky in the unenviable position of having to cause damage to itself.
BT, on the other hand, will likely be overjoyed with the decision, as will YouView customers across the country, finally able to watch Sky Sports without having to subscribe to either Sky or Virgin. The lack of Sky Sports on non-subscription services is what drew Ofcom to order Sky to allow people to subscribe via YouView.
Currently, only Virgin Media and Sky subscribers can access the paid sports package of Sky Sports, but those who have either Freeview of YouView have been left out in the cold, amid fears from Sky that by distributing their most valuable channels to any service which requests when would fundamentally destabilise their business plan of offering hardware and software together to keep customers locked in to their subscriptions. It’s this behaviour which Ofcom see as anti-competition and bad for consumers. Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive said in a statement that “After more than four years of litigation and legal challenges, Ofcom’s 2010 pay TV decision continues to serve the interests of UK consumers and this ruling is consistent with our original decision. Today’s ruling paves the way for more top sports to be available on another TV service and supports competition and innovation in the communications sector as we originally intended.”.
Sky, on the other hand, stated “Today’s judgment is a purely interim measure with no impact on the ongoing legal process or the CAT’s previous dismissal of Ofcom’s core argument in favour of WMO. Ofcom itself is reviewing WMO in light of market developments and we continue to believe that this unwarranted obligation should be removed entirely.”
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