Media regulator Ofcom has ruled Sky is free to block rival BT from advertising BT Sport on its Sky Sports channels.
BT had argued that Sky’s actions amounted to discrimination because Sky had previously accepted adverts for ESPN’s channels.
The broadband and phone company argued that blocking its adverts from Sky Sports would make it harder to attract the very subscribers it needed for the channel to succeed.
In response Sky said the fact that BT was, like itself, a triple-play company offering customers Pay TV, phone and broadband deals meant the comparison with past sports providers was flawed.
The satellite broadcaster also argued that “to advertise BT Sport channels on the Sky Sports channels could adversely impact the Sky Sports brand because BT could seek to run advertisements that involve negative comparisons with Sky Sports”.
Although Ofcom said the decision to block BT’s adverts “amounts to discriminatory behaviour” it found that “Sky is pursuing a legitimate commercial interest” and that the company has not “not unduly discriminated against BT”.
The ruling is the first in ongoing battle between the two companies as they seek to maximise take-up of their sports channels.
Yesterday BT confirmed it had asked Ofcom to investigate Sky for “an abuse of dominance” after the two companies failed to agree a carriage deal for Sky Sports 1 & 2 on BT’s YouView platform.