Ofcom closes investigation into Premier League football rights
8 Aug 2016 02:18 PM
Ofcom has yesterday closed its investigation into how the Premier League sells live UK audio-visual media rights for Premier League football matches.
The investigation, carried out under the Competition Act 1998, considered whether the selling arrangements of the Premier League restricted or distorted competition.
In closing the investigation, Ofcom has taken into account the Premier League’s recent decision to increase the number of matches available for live broadcast in the UK, to a minimum of 190 per season from the start of the 2019/20 season. This will be an increase of at least 22 matches per season over the number sold for live broadcast in the Premier League’s auction in 2015.
The Premier League’s decision to increase matches available in its next auction for live TV rights builds upon commitments given to the European Commission in 2006.
The next auction will include a ‘no single buyer’ rule, which means that more than one broadcaster must be awarded rights. At least 42 matches per season will be reserved for a second buyer, of which a minimum of 30 will be available for broadcast at the weekend.
Ofcom also took into account the results of consumer research it carried out to understand the preferences of match-going fans and those watching on TV in relation to Premier League matches. Ofcom has yesterday published the results of the consumer research undertaken as part of the investigation.
A fifth of fans said they wanted to see more matches televised live. A similar proportion said they were happy with the overall number of matches broadcast live, but wanted to see different matches shown.
Among match-going fans, a high proportion said that the day of the week and kick-off time was of high importance, with over two-thirds of this group identifying the Saturday 3pm kick off as their preferred time to attend.
We believe that a balance would need to be struck between the potential benefits of releasing more matches for live broadcast, and the potential disruption on match-going fans due to these games being rescheduled to be broadcast outside of the ‘closed period’. The closed period is between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on a Saturday.(-1-)
Due to the range of views expressed in the consumer research, significant further work – including additional research among football fans – would be required to conclude this investigation.
Given the considerations outlined above, we have decided to close the investigation. Ofcom’s resources could be used more effectively on other priorities to benefit consumers and competition.
- The live broadcast of any football match is prohibited during the closed period, which is set by the Football Association.
- Ofcom’s decision to close this investigation has been taken in accordance with the prioritisation framework set out in paragraphs 4.13 and 7.42 - 7.43 of Ofcom’s Enforcement Guidelines.
- The European Commission accepted commitments from the Premier League on 22 March 2006 following an investigation under Article 101 (then Article 81) of the Treaty into the joint selling of its media rights. The commitments applied for 6 years and expired at the end of the 2012/13 season.
- Between 13 August and 17 September 2015, BDRC Continental conducted over 4000 interviews with UK consumers on Ofcom’s behalf. Participants in the survey included both match-attending fans and TV viewers of Premier League matches. Ofcom has yesterday published the results of this research.
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