Sky could be forced to offer rival BT the right to sell Sky Sports 1 & 2 to BT TV customers following a Court of Appeal ruling.
Media regulator Ofcom had previously ruled the satellite giant must offer its most popular sport channels to rivals at a discount under a “wholesale must offer” to ensure customers had a choice of pay-TV provider without missing out on top sporting events.
That ruling was struck down in 2012 by the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) following an appeal by Sky.
Sky says deals with Virgin Media, TalkTalk and the now defunct TopUpTV to offer the channels prove it’s willing to strike commercially viable agreements with rivals.
Although BT is able to offer Sky Sports 1 & 2 to users of its now withdrawn Vision+ boxes, the two firms have failed to agree a deal for them to be offered to subscribers with the newer YouView box.
Sky has previously suggested it’s open to wholesaling its channels to BT if it in turn allows Sky to sell BT Sport direct to its customers. At present Sky viewers must subscribe to the channels by contacting BT.
However on Monday Lord Justice Aikens said the CAT had failed to properly consider statements made to it by Ofcom and that as a result there had been “errors of law” in its handling of Sky’s appeal.
Today’s ruling doesn’t secure access to the channels for BT and its customers but does mean the CAT will have to reconsider its ruling.
In a statement Ofcom said: “Ofcom welcomes the Court of Appeal’s decision that the judgment of the Competition Appeal Tribunal failed properly to consider Ofcom’s findings that there was ineffective competition in the market.
“Ensuring fair and effective competition in the pay TV market has always been Ofcom’s objective. Ofcom’s 2010 decision that Sky must offer premium sports channels to other providers was designed to deliver choice and innovation to consumers through greater competition.”
A BT spokesperson said: “We are glad that this issue will now be considered afresh and are hopeful that the outcome will finally deliver increased competition in pay-TV which would be in the best interests of consumers.”
Sky said today’s ruling “does not alter in any way the CAT’s fundamental findings, overturning Ofcom, that Sky engaged constructively with other distributors over the supply of its premium sports channels, and that Virgin Media is able to compete effectively with Sky on the basis of Sky’s rate card prices.”