Home / News / TV News / Ofcom Proposes Forcing Sky to Share Content

Ofcom Proposes Forcing Sky to Share Content


Ofcom Proposes Forcing Sky to Share Content

Ofcom has been conducting its current Pay TV consultation for some time now, but it looks like some progress is being made. At least if so new proposals relating to "the restricted distribution of premium sports and movies channels operated by BSkyB" make it seem.

Ofcom believes, and many of us would agree I'm sure, than Sky is being overly restrictive in the way it makes its premium sports and movie content available to other broadcasters. Ofcom's proposal is for Sky to be obliged to offer its premium channels to other retailers - say, Virgin Media, or even Freesat potentially - on a wholesale basis, at regulated prices, "promoting choice and innovation." Ofcom's suggested pricing structure would be "above the level required to allow Sky to make a reasonable return on its costs" besides which Sky's revenues would likely increase anyway due to increased viewership.

Ofcom is also considering intervening with Sky's subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) content and the next FA Premier League auction. As regard films, Ofcom reckons that although Sky holds SVoD rights for all the major film studios but fails to exploit that on its satellite platform. Ofcom suggests that VoD licences should be separate from 'standard' subscription rights, which they currently aren't. Ofcom says it will be talking to the Premier League regarding its next broadcast rights auction in 2012 - although the full details of what's to be talked about aren't mentioned.

Obviously these are just proposals currently, so we shouldn't all go throwing "down with Sky's monopoly" parties right away. It may be worth getting a couple of quotes from some caterers, though, just in case.




June 26, 2009, 8:06 pm

Its about time.

There is an even simpler solution, Sky have gotten far too big. Make them split in 2, platform and broadcaster. Problem solved, monopoly ended.


June 26, 2009, 9:06 pm

@Alan Clinch - good point, much like BT is now split with OpenReach holding rights over the last mile network and licensing to telcos (inc. BT) at regulated prices.

Sky as platform and broadcaster would be great. Better yet, split it into three levels - platform, broadcaster, production. And while you're at it split out their broadband and phone offerings. Make all the components negotiate deals on arm's length terms (killing cross-subsidy), and demand "no less favourable" terms in negotiations with the competition.

On the other hand, there's a raging capitalist in me saying just leave Sky alone - it may have got to where it is through hard-nosed tactics, but it has done so legitimately. Let it carry on and let the market choose whether to support it or not. That said, it is a massive double standard that Sky is effectively unregulated, while BT is so tightly scrutinised by Ofcom that it can offer no cross-subsidies, making its phone and broadband offerings (let's not forget that BT is technically a triple/quad-play provider, being both a mobile virtual network operator and a TV platform (Vision)) look quite poor value compared to say SkyTalk and Sky Broadband.


June 26, 2009, 10:34 pm

I think there has to be competition. Right now no one can compete with Sky. Why should any one company be able to monopolise something as important as HD. Right now, unless you have an ugly dish at the side of your house, it's not possible to get one or more HD channels. This is how they operate, they will cling to stuff for dear life until forced to share.


June 26, 2009, 11:39 pm

What I want to know is why Sky's TV channels have some of the longest advert breaks of any other channel, yet they charge a subscription to view it? Surely that subscription should be subsidising some of that advertising revenue?


June 27, 2009, 2:44 am

@ChaosDefinesOrder: That's what I've always wondered. Fair enough if you just pay for installation and a small fee for the network upkeep (like you pay for broadband) but you don't, you pay a not insubstantial fee just for basic channels the a significant amount extra for all the decent channels and yet they're still packed with adverts. Quite ridiculous.

Overall I think the whole splitting idea is a good one also.

mike 3

June 27, 2009, 3:06 am

BBC is far far worse than Sky


June 27, 2009, 3:40 am

Another really annoying feature with Sky, their adverts are almost completely synchronised so no matter what channel you change to, you have to put up with their rubbish.


June 27, 2009, 3:47 am

Yes, an organisation that consistently produces high quality programming and shares it with any and all truly is terrible. They've got to go.

Tony 15

June 27, 2009, 4:03 am

If you want better service you don&#8217t make one worse to make the other seem better, sky made themselves the best, why should they have to suffer from government interference, the EU insistence for the premiership rights not to go to one broadcaster just increased the cost of watching football, what good did that do the viewer. Then the other company collapsed&#8230

You don&#8217t see ofwatt or ofgem or the rail one do anything about the blatant price rises of privatised monopolies, I don&#8217t see why ofcom seem to think its ok to issue proposals in a non free market way when you have a broadcaster funded by the tax payer. Will sky get some of the TV licence fee money?


June 27, 2009, 4:04 am

"BBC is far far worse than Sky"

Based on?


June 27, 2009, 5:33 am

@mike - care to say why you think that?


June 27, 2009, 7:02 am

@tony - there are so many holes in your argument it's almost incoherent.


June 27, 2009, 7:05 am

Well teh adverts on sky are why we now have freesat, same adverts on the channels both get but its free!

and the 40 odd quid a month im saving buys ALOT of films and box sets :D

15 minutes+ in every hour of TV im paying over 40 quid a month for is SHOCKING!


June 27, 2009, 1:35 pm

My problem with Sky is the Packaging Structure. Out of the main channels I watch about 3 or 4 (Comedy Central, Sky 1 and my missus watches living) yet I pay for 600+ channels. I have no problem with the sports/movies packages - I wish they were cheaper like everyone else but Sky do a great job of covering ALL sports not just the main ones catering for every viewer AND the development of different analytical techniques and their research and development into new methods of broadcasting has pushed the technical boundries of television in a way that wouldn't have happened without their monopoly. Overall I think they do a fairly good job.


June 27, 2009, 4:55 pm

There are commercial breaks or 'spots' with all commercial TV companies, there are even people who think the BBC should also move in that direction, some of these people may be in the next goverment, I like it just the way it is right now,there are no spots from Sky during the transmission of films, unlike Film 4, still in SD only.

Proposals to split by compulsion the various media options are as barmy as the railway privitisation has proved to be, the customer gets the dirty end of the stick but no greater or cheaper choices in practice, to describe an overall cheaper and more technically progressive TV/Phone/Broadband package as "cross subsidy" is peverse.

Sky got where it is by shrewdly assessing the mood of the public and catering for it with it's own (bankers & shareholders) money linked to the growth in our subscriptions and Sky delivered, especially with High Definition, the BBC HD output is for the most part pathetic and meagre, or at best too narrowly focused on sitcom La La Land constantly repeated with an allday looped preview to boost the hours, it has not done anywhere near enough to promote this wonderful medium and the future for television broadcasting.

The mullahs of Ofcom should at least read the newspapers, they plainly can't be a*rsed to watch TV very much, in the last few weeks Setanta collapsed with lorry loads of money gone nowhere to much purpose and it's creation proved to be of little benefit to TV viewers, it was just another carpetbaggers' mouth to feed in the end.


June 27, 2009, 10:53 pm

Sky got where it is because they have no competition. Virgin cant compete because of the debts, built up years ago, laying cable. Whilst this was happening Sky was buying content and tying down customers to there platform. Now the situation is thats its totally impossible for anyone to compete, sky has the platform, the content. Even if you manage to get some of the content you still need to use the Sky platform. It can't be allowed to continue. Why cant I watch our national sport on digital terestial? If sky was split, sky sports would be available through every way.

mike 3

June 28, 2009, 4:31 am

Well Sky is good value if never watch any of the BBC stuff and are forced to pay £10 a month extra, there's nothing made by BBC or made in England that I would watch. I would have paid for 2 years ago if I didn't have to pay BBC for owning a TV ontop.

The BBC have 50 local TV & radio channels, what a waist of money for someone who never listens to radio or watches regional programming.

Also the lack of adds doesn't bother me at all now unless your watching something live you dont get any on ITV or Channel 4.

mike 3

June 28, 2009, 4:44 am

and to top it off now your BBC License fee goes to pay for broadband in Scotland, ITV and stopping illegal file sharing.



June 29, 2009, 12:51 am

As recent history has proved, competition doesn't always work! Because of the interference of some bureaucrats in Brussels, Setanta were given a large slice of the lucrative football on TV market! What happened, they failed! They were a rubbish broadcaster, nowhere near as good as Sky and it showed. Sky has 10 million subscribers, who get something they want at a price they are prepared to pay. That's the free market working. Whatever system you draw up, it won't work any better than it does at the moment. Sky win the broadcast rights, and it should be up to them, what price they sell those rights onto other companies to broadcast Sky programmes.

If Ofcom, the European Union and the Competition Commission want competition, then let other people have an opinion on what they do! They are monopolies in their own rights. Neither Ofcom and the CC are elected or even subject to scrutiny. Sure, there is a window for comments, but after a decision is made, then there is no chance for the public to say, hang on, you've made a wrong decision, by which time, it's too late!

The privatised rail structure has brought many benefits, not least much higher passenger numbers, than can be attributed to an economic boom. However, in hindsight or otherwise, no one would have such a complex set up that we currently have. If we inflict this on Sky (or anyone else), it'll be a recipe for disaster and only increase costs for the end user - yes us!


June 29, 2009, 1:54 am

the best anyone can hope for from sky is that they ditch the HD fee and reduce prices across the board.

and to everybody else: get rid of the shopping channels that nobody watches.

Tony 15

June 29, 2009, 2:08 am

@ruthless Thanks for the comment, I can take constructive criticism, sadly I see none from you. If you care to point out the incoherent holes, I'd be honoured to see if I can address them.


June 29, 2009, 5:02 am

It seems my proposal (see my comments on &#8220Ofcom Approves "Super-fast broadband in the UK" Comments"- 3rd Mar 2009) for the Virginmedia cable network is proving rather versatile.

However, while I am no fan of Sky the proposal by Ofcom is flawed. There is a better alternative.

Those espousing the freemarket smokescreen in defence of Sky are either bias for whatever reasons (like, perhaps they may be Sky employees?) your arguments are also flawed.

Setanta or anyone else similar was doomed simply because they were up against an established and highly profitable rival &#8211 10 million subscribers says it in the main. That does not mean Sky (Sports) is/was untouchable.

While I am not without criticism of the BBC, I firmly believe the BBC delivers very good value for money with plenty of headroom for improvement. It's failure to deliver HD content/channels NOW rather than in accordance with the bureaucratic timetable etc for the Digital switchover forced upon it by the inept politicians and quangos appointed by them like Ofcom.

While I am no great fan of the iPlayer, BBC is right to do it (as it will become very clear in years to come to those suffering brain damage or vision problems), however, its failure to deliver at least one full BBC-HD channel now is lamentable and grossly fails the Licence Fee payers given the rapid uptake of HD-ready TV sets. As previously explained why waste money and bandwidth on BBC-3 & 4 (of which I am a keen viewer) and such excesses? There are other savings to be had.

ITV and C-4 should not be given anything from the Licence fee or chunk of the BBC (Enterprises) as there are perfectly viable alternatives. ITV and C-4 obviously will only be too willing to take advantage of the proposal in the Government's and Ofcom's flawed Digital Britain report. Such an action will do little to solve the issues facing ITV and C-4 while damaging the BBC only for the the Licence Fee payer to be landed the bill at a later date for this folly to ensure it's survival as a viable entity.


June 29, 2009, 7:43 am


Just to clarify a few points, I am not a Sky employee, my "bias" is based on my viewing experience, this has been obtained as a result of a great package deal from Sky (with some credit to Panasonic) the BBC are NOT hamstrung or prevented from transmitting more or better programmes in HD, it chooses not to despite, or becase of, it's own kind of monopoly on opportunities just begging for HD, like The State Opening of Parliament, that is beyond "lamentable", contemptable is more accurate.

"10 million subscribers says it in the main." too right it does ! all of them consenting adults and won over by Skys' pioneering approach in advancing many aspects of broadcasting, not just establishing the Premier League, later in HD, but slighly more subtle improvements like showing films in their original format, I know they were not the first but they have been the most consistent.

I can remember the EU attempt to encourage widescreen transmissions back in CRT days when they pumped buckets of money down the throats of companies like Channel 4 and Philips to promote Pal Plus, a complete squandering of tax payers hard earned and all to little avail.

The only "flawed argument" in this discussion is your belief that those subscribers happy with what they get from Sky, prefering to see it rightly prosper and stay as it is are somehow promoting a "freemarket smokescreen" I can assure you we are not as deluded as you seem to think we are.

We are just not buying what Ofcom is selling.


June 29, 2009, 2:04 pm

This market is not a free market. For example, if I, as a consumer, want to watch Premiership football, I can only do so by signing up to Sky. To those people who say that the market is free, because if you don't like Sky you can sign up to another provider, well, that argument only works if the same content was available through other providers. This is a monopoly situation. I am not sure whether this situation is right or wrong, or whether Sky is abusing their monopoly powers, or whether they have the right to structure their pricing and revenue model as they wish, but I do know that we shouldn't be scared of calling a monopoly a monopoly.


June 29, 2009, 4:17 pm

Having now read through quite a bit of the ofcom document it basically boils down to this.

Sky will have to make their premium channels available to any platform for a price that ofcom will set. This price is 30% lower than the current rate Sky charge Virgin for the channels just now. They also have to provide any red button functionality that has actual content ie Champ League games and HD.

Ofcom also want to split the rights to first run Subscription on Demand movies so that Sky do not have them when they do not use them as the story says.

I fail to see how any of this can be a negative for anyone other than Sky. Sky will have to work harder to inovate now on their digital satelite platform as it will be the only way that they will hold onto customers who no longer need to use them.

comments powered by Disqus