Media regulator Ofcom has rejected a call from Virgin Media to block the Premier League’s auction of broadcast rights.
Last year the cable company asked the media regulator to investigate how the rights are sold, citing concerns that fans risk ever rising costs amid fierce competition between Sky and BT.
It claims the way packages of rights are structured, and the League’s policy of only releasing around 40% of matches to broadcasters, is pushing up prices for consumers.
At the time it 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.”
Although not part of Virgin Media’s complaint, the prices paid by Sky and BT for the right to show matches also impacts on resellers of their channels.
Last week the cable firm followed up its complaint with a request that Ofcom halt the current auction for the 2016/17 rights.
The auction is expected to see prices exceed the £3bn paid by Sky and BT for their current rights, potentially pushing up prices for consumers and resellers.
In a statement published today, Ofcom said it has “decided to reject the application” and that it “does not consider that there is an urgent need to intervene to delay the auction.”
The statement added: “There will be a significant gap, of around 17 months, between the auction and the start of the 2016/2017 season when broadcasting of the relevant matches will commence.
“In the event that Ofcom’s investigation concludes that there is an infringement, Ofcom has the necessary powers to require the Premier League and Premier League clubs to make changes to arrangements for the broadcasting of matches within the time available before the start of the relevant season.
“In its submissions to Ofcom, the Premier League has similarly stated its view that there is no basis for Virgin Media’s assertion that Ofcom would be constrained in its ability to intervene post auction.
“It has also confirmed to Ofcom that it will put in place arrangements in contracts with purchasers to address the consequences of a potential infringement decision.”
Ofcom says its investigation “is ongoing” and would be carried out “expeditiously”.