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U.K. pay TV receives mixed review

Ofcom delivers praise, concerns

LONDON — The U.K. pay TV market has “delivered significant benefits to consumers,” but there are “warning signs” relating to some areas where choice may be limited, regulator Ofcom has reported.

The org, which is being lobbied by rivals of satcaster BSkyB to look at its dominance, said the market delivers “reasonable” levels of consumer satisfaction, and — at $8 billion — the biggest source of revenue to the U.K. broadcast industry, but there were possible concerns.

These included whether vertically integrated combos like BSkyB have the incentive to sell their premium content, such as sport and movies, to other platforms and if firms are able to compete effectively for premium content.

Ofcom also suggested that the practice of consumers having to buy a basic package before they are allowed to buy premium content could be limiting choice.

Publication of the 133-page Ofcom document came as the regulator launched a consultation on competition in the U.K. pay TV market.

A submission from BSkyB’s rivals, including cable giant Virgin Media and sports specialist Setanta, accused the satcaster of running “a vicious circle of control,” especially over film and sports rights, which crushes competition.

Ofcom said it had “not yet reached a view on the existence of competition problems.”

BSkyB and Virgin Media are involved in a bitter dispute after they failed to agree a new carriage deal for Sky channels in February.

This led to the satellite platform pulling several webs, including Sky One, from Virgin.

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