Sky Sports ruling: How will it affect you?

Posted on: 06 April 2010 by Mark O'haire

Sky must offer its flagship Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels to other broadcasters at a price lower than that it currently offers its own customers, Ofcom has ruled.

The decision means digital TV broadcasters such as BT and Virgin will pay just £10.63 a month for the sports channels, and this cost reduction could be passed on to consumers in the form of substantially lower monthly subscription prices.

But how will this affect customers?

How much will it cost?

Ofcom has set a wholesale price of £10.63 per subscriber per month for each of Sky Sports 1 and 2 when sold on a stand-alone basis. This is 23.4% cheaper than the current wholesale price to cable operators. In theory, this price can be passed on to subscribers but that will be determined by indiviual operators' pricing policies.

Most consumers currently buy packages which include Sky Sports 1 and 2. The wholesale price for this service bundle has been reduced by 10.5% to £17.14, Ofcom said. This means that broadcasters should be able to pass on the reduction in wholesale costs to the customer.

Will the content be the same?

Sky's rivals have raised concerns that Ofcom's decision would mean that Sky can shift important content, such as Premier League games, on to other channels. But the regulator said it would take further action if Sky attempted such a move.

It said, "Ofcom recognises that a potential response to the remedy from Sky could be to attempt to undermine it by shifting content on to channels not covered by the remedy. If Sky was to do this to any material extent, Ofcom would review the remedy and would consider extending it to include the relevant channels.

"This would not require a protracted process, since the substantive issues would be the same as those on which Ofcom has concluded in today's statement."

How soon can you get the channels?

There is no concrete news yet but BT said it hoped to have competitive deals on offer before the new Premier League season begins in August.

It all depends on if Sky's parent company, BSkyB, are successful in their appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Will other Sky Channels become available soon?

Not at the moment. BT's retail chief executive, Gareth Patterson, said that today's decision from Ofcom, although a step in the right direction, was "disappointing".

Although BT will be able to sell the two premium sports channels they had hoped Ofcom's ruling would have gone further. He said: "They have dropped movie channels, which should have been included. They should have included all Sky Sports channels, not just two."

Will Sky be available on Freeview?

Possibly. As part of the ruling, Sky has been granted permission to launch Picnic, the service to bring pay TV channels to Freeview, which it put on hold two years ago, subject to the satellite company agreeing to the sports channels deal.

The proposed Picnic service would mean that customers would have to pay for Sky's three free-to-air channels on Freeview - Sky News, Sky3 and Sky Sports News. It may also mean that customers can get other Sky channels such as, Sky Movies and Sky Sports on Freeview.

So what are the best deals?

It may be worth shopping around for a new deal, although many people may wish to wait until the new Sky changes are rolled out. You can read our guide to getting a better digital TV package for tips on switching.

If you're thinking of switching then you can use our Digital TV deal finder to compare your options.

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