The battle for armchair sports fans escalated today after regulator Ofcom launched an investigation into BSkyB's alleged refusal to share its Sky Sports channels with BT on “fair terms”.
The telecoms watchdog said it has opened an investigation into Sky's "alleged abuse of a dominant position" regarding the wholesale supply of Sky Sports 1 and 2 - its flagship sports channels.
BT wants to offer Sky Sports via YouView set-top boxes to complement its own newly-launched sport offer. But BT said Sky will not allow the channels to be broadcast over BT boxes unless it offers its rival wholesale access to its own BT Sport channels in return.
BT sparked a price war with Sky last month when it launched free live Premier League action to football fans for the first time - if they buy its broadband starting at £10 a month.
From August BT will show 38 Premier League games a season in the first major challenge to Sky's dominance of top-flight football.
The complaint was revealed as the countdown to the new Premier League season began today with the release of fixtures.
BT argues that as a new player, it should not have to sell its channels to Sky, but its rival has an obligation to share the channels as the major force in paid-for sport broadcasting.
BT added that Sky is discriminating against it because it already allows another company using the YouView box, TalkTalk, to sell Sky Sports.
Ofcom said it will "consider whether Sky has abused a dominant position under UK and/or EU competition law".
The regulator added it will decide by next month whether to grant "interim relief" - which could temporarily give BT access to Sky Sports.
BT currently offers TV to about 810,000 customers over its Vision and YouView boxes. BT is allowed to show Sky Sports over its older Vision boxes, but is moving customers to the more high-tech YouView platform.
YouView is a joint venture between BT, TalkTalk, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Arqiva, and was launched last autumn. The box offers more than 70 channels, delivered via a broadband connection. It allows users to pause, rewind and record programmes.
BT said: "We are pleased Ofcom has decided to open an investigation as we believe Sky has behaved in an unreasonable and discriminatory manner.
"This is because they have refused to provide Sky Sports 1 and 2 to BT on YouView on fair terms whilst providing them to other pay TV retailers such as TalkTalk.
"While we are continuing to try to resolve this through commercial negotiations, we have asked Ofcom to take urgent action against Sky in the meantime.
"We are hopeful that Ofcom will deliver an outcome that would be in the best interests of consumers."
Sky insisted BT's complaint is "entirely without merit". It said: "We look forward to engaging constructively with Ofcom."
The complaint is the latest in an increasingly bitter spat between the two telecoms giants after the watchdog launched another investigation into a complaint by BT over Sky's refusal to run adverts promoting its rival's sports channels.
BT added that Sky customers will be able to access its sports channels - if they subscribe to its broadband or buy a separate sports package.
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