Ofcom rains on BSkyB's Picnic?

Ofcom has wasted no time getting out its consultation on Sky's pay-TV on Freeview plans. Ofcom said the Sky proposal would increase choice and availability of pay-TV services on the platform, but it could block other providers of pay-TV from operating on Freeview, which has limited capacity, while strengthening Sky's dominance of the pay-TV market established through its satellite platform.

“Given the capacity constraints on the platform, it is possible that features of the pay-TV market make it more likely that a single retail provider of pay-TV services will emerge on DTT,” Ofcom said. Another concern would be Sky's use of technical standards incompatible with existing DTT pay-TV services and set-top boxes. This would require more than one set-top box to view all pay-TV services.

Ofcom put forward three options for consultation. One is to give unconditional approval to the Sky proposal, leaving competition issues to be resolved later. The other two options involve approval – either unconditional or subject to requirements that would ensure a competitive market.

BSkyB said: “Picnic will increase competition in TV, broadband and phone services and bring viewers a better choice of channels through their aerial. We believe these plans are a positive step for the DTT platform and we look forward to responding to Ofcom's consultation in due course.”

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