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OFT approves new BSkyB ratecard

The Office of Fair Trading has approved a revised rate card for the sale of BSkyB television programming to the cable industry, following long negotiations, it was announced yesterday.

As a result, cable operators will be able to buy programming at the same rate and under similar conditions as BSkyB has offered to the two biggest cable operators, Telewest and Nynex CableComms, which have signed long- term programming supply agreements with the satellite broadcaster.

The rate card, along with the exclusive agreements, had been the subject of complaints from other cable companies, who claimed the terms were anti- competitive.

David Chance, BSkyB deputy managing director, said the company welcomed the OFT announcement. "We are pleased to receive approval of an incentive- based rate card which rewards those cable operators who work to support Sky's services."

Under the revised rate card, cable operators will be awarded discounts based on the number of Sky channels they take, and on the ratio of pay- to-basic channels sold to their customers.

In addition, prices will vary according to the number of subscribers and to the penetration rates achieved by individual cable operators in their franchise areas.

The OFT has yet to approve the controversial supply contracts reached with Telewest and Nynex CableComms. Mr Chance said that BSkyB, the two cable companies and the OFT were involved in detailed negotiation. He expected a satisfactory outcome soon.

The OFT denounced clauses in the two agreements that restricted the ability of Nynex and Telewest to invest in pay-per-view film and sports programming in competition with BSkyB.