Ofcom investigating how Premier League sells domestic broadcasting rights following Virgin Media complaint about 3pm kick-offs

Virgin Media are unhappy that most of the Premier League matches cannot be screened whereas nearly all matches across Europe are viewable live

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The Independent Online

Ofcom has opened an investigation into how the Premier League sells its domestic broadcast rights for matches.

The investigation follows a complaint from Virgin Media, which was submitted to Ofcom - the regulator and competition authority for UK communications industries - in September.

Ofcom announced an investigation will take place, saying that under the Competition Act "Ofcom may conduct an investigation where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is an agreement which has as its object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the UK and/or the EU".

Virgin Media had complained that not enough Premier League matches are made available for live screening - in most of the rest of Europe all top-flight games are available to watch on TV.

Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, said it understood the importance of 3pm kick-offs on Saturdays to fans and will be speaking to supporters' groups.

The Premier League is due to hold its next auction of broadcast rights in the new year but this is unlikely to be affected too much by the Ofcom action as its investigations can take several years.

The Ofcom statement added: "Ofcom is mindful of the likely timing of the next auction of live UK audio-visual media rights, and is open to discussion with the Premier League about its plans.

"Ofcom understands that the scheduling of football games is important to many football fans, in particular attending 3pm kick-offs on Saturdays. The investigation will take this into account and Ofcom plans to approach the Football Supporters' Federation and certain other supporters' groups to understand their views."

Virgin Media's complaint claims the 'collective' selling of live UK television rights by the Premier League for matches played by its member clubs is in breach of competition law.

Ofcom's statement adds: "In particular, the complaint raises concerns about the number of Premier League matches for which live broadcasting rights are made available.

"Virgin Media argues that the proportion of matches made available for live television broadcast under the current Premier League rights deals - at 41% - is lower than some other leading European leagues, where more matches are available for live television broadcast.

"The complaint alleges that this contributes to higher prices for consumers of pay TV packages that include premium sport channels and for the pay TV retailers of premium sports channels."

PA

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