David Prosser: Football's price war still in extra time

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The Independent Online

Outlook: The latest trading update from Virgin Media makes interesting reading, recording as it does the increasing demand for its cable television services. Clearly, Virgin is at last succeeding in capturing some hearts and minds from Sky, whose dominance of the pay TV market has endured for so long.

Still, Sky remains some distance out in front, with more than twice as many customers as Virgin. The speed at which that lead is cut depends partly on a group of 20 or so well-paid lawyers who have spent this week arguing in a hearing at the Competition Appeal Tribunal in central London.

Sky's legal team is demanding a stay of execution on the implementation of the recent Ofcom ruling that it must cut the price of the sports content it sells to rivals by at least a fifth. Ofcom, Virgin and various other interested parties are fighting that application.

The outcome of the hearing, which concluded last night, has real significance for everyone who pays to watch live football on television: there really might be a price war.

If Sky loses its case, Virgin hopes to be able to offer cut-price Premiership action in time for next season. In which case it may start picking customers up even more quickly.

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