Sky_logo_720Ofcom has today axed rules which force Sky to sell its Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels to rival pay-TV operators.

In 2010 the regulator introduced a ‘wholesale must-offer’ obligation to ensure that sports fans could watch major competitions regardless of their chosen platform.

The move was prompted by concerns that Sky could have motive to withhold its channels from rials in order to dominate the market for pay sports.

However the firm has since reached commercial deals with Virgin Media and TalkTalk to offer its full range of sports channels and also makes them available contract-free via its NOW TV service.

Ofcom says these developments, plus the arrival of BT Sport which has spent £2bn on major sports rights, means the 2010 regulation is no longer necessary.

Sky welcomed today’s announcement, saying: “We are pleased that Ofcom has decided to remove the WMO condition.

“As the evidence demonstrates, we are, and have always been, more than happy to make our channels available on other platforms.”

The ruling could have implications for BT which is the only current beneficiary of the WMO obligation.

Last year the ISP persuaded a court to extend the scope of the WMO rules to include its YouView service having previously been unable to agree commercial terms to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 to users of its newer set top boxes.

A spokesperson said the firm would “consider our legal options in the light of this decision” but stressed it would “continue to offer our customers access to Sky Sports 1 and 2” in the immediate term.

They added: “Ofcom has said it is important for Pay TV retailers to have access to key Sky content to be able to compete effectively in this market, and that they want consumers to have access to these channels.

“We therefore expect Sky to behave appropriately so that we can continue to offer our customers access.”

The regulator has warned that it’ll review today’s decision “should evidence emerge of practices which we consider to be prejudicial to fair and effective competition”.

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