smileimage9 / Shutterstock.com
smileimage9 / Shutterstock.com
An investigation into the sale of Premier League TV rights has been dropped by TV and media regulator Ofcom.

The investigation was opened at the urging of Virgin Media which claimed competition between Sky and BT for major sporting rights was pushing up prices for consumers.

Between them the two firms are paying £5.1bn to cover the competition for the next three years, an 80% increase on their previous deal which saw BT enter the pay-TV sports business for the first time.

In 2014 the cable company said: “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.”

Separately the firm admitted the prices it pays both rivals, who between them hold the TV rights to most major sporting competitions, has impacted its own margins.

Last year it called on Ofcom to halt the Premier League’s auction of broadcast rights until the investigation was concluded, however the demand was rejected by the regulator which today announced it had now shelved the probe entirely.

News of the development was broken on Sunday night by the Telegraph newspaper and has since been confirmed by Ofcom in a public statement.

Confirming the report, Ofcom said made its decision after the Premier League confirmed future auctions would reserve “at least 42 matches per season” for a second broadcaster, of which “a minimum of 30 will be available for broadcast at the weekend.”

In addition the League is increasing the number of games available to broadcasters to 190 per season from the start of the 2019/20 season.

The new ‘no single buyer’ rule could help BT, the smaller of the two current rights holders, retain access to the competition which is seen as key driver of subscribers for any sports broadcaster.

Despite now being rebuffed by the regulator twice, Virgin Media today claimed it had secured a win for football fans.

In a statement, CEO Tom Mockridge said: “Football fans will now be able to watch more live action on TV.

“As the only TV provider to offer all the available games, we are pleased that after a two year campaign the Premier League has agreed to offer more TV games.”

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