Ofcom pay TV concerns

Ofcom has raised possible concerns over competition within the UK pay TV sector. The concerns are raised in a consultation document investigating the pay TV market. Ofcom launched an investigation into the pay TV industry in March, following a submission from a group including Virgin Media. The submission came after Virgin lost access to some Sky TV channels.

The aim of the current consultation is to seek stakeholders' views on Ofcom's initial assessment of the operation of competition in the market and the outcome for consumers.

Ofcom said that the pay TV market had delivered “significant benefits” to consumers, but suggested that there were some warning signs, such as areas where consumer choice may be limited. But it said that recent developments, such as the emergence of new platforms and content providers, raised possible concerns.

Particular areas of concern for future regulation included whether vertically-integrated firms have the incentive to make their premium content, such as sports and movies, available to other retailers and other platform operators; whether firms are able to compete effectively at the wholesale level for premium content; and the enforcement of buy-through (the practice of requiring consumers to purchase a basic package before they are allowed to buy a premium service) at the retail level.

Ofcom has invited views and comments on its initial assessment of the operation of competition in the market and the effect on consumers. It expects to publish a further consultation in Spring 2008.

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