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Ofcom drops Premier League broadcast rights investigation

Ofcom has dropped its investigation into the Premier League over the inflation in TV broadcast rights, firmly securing the league’s status as the most lucrative domestic competition in world football.

Ofcom launched the investigation in 2014 to look into the whether the way the premier League sold broadcasting rights had restricted or distorted competition. The rivalry between Sky and BT pushed the rights costs up by almost 80 per cent to £5.14bn, sparking concerns that the costs could be passed on to consumers.

The investigation came in response to a complaint form Virgin Media, which offers the games to its subscribers via wholesale deals, meaning it had felt the impact of the higher costs. The TV operator argued that by making just 41 per cent of matches available, far lower than the likes of the German Bundesliga, league bosses were keeping prices artificially high and restricting choice to consumers.

Ofcom confirmed that it had closed the investigation after the league agreed to increase the number of matches made available for live broadcast in the 2019/2020 season.

"Given the considerations outlined... we have decided to close the investigation," it said. "Ofcom's resources could be used more effectively on other priorities to benefit consumers and competition."

The Premier League announced that next season’s auction would add a further 22 live matches on top of the additional 14 made available for the 2016/17 season.

A spokesperson for the Premier League said: “We welcome the certainty that this Ofcom decision brings. From 2006 to 2013 our UK broadcasting rights were sold in line with commitments given to the European Commission, with subsequent sales processes having been conducted on an even more pro-competitive basis.

“The Premier League will continue to structure and auction its UK broadcasting rights in ways that are compatible with applicable competition law.”

The Premier League also confirmed that the minimum number of games a season that must be aired by a second rights holder - Sky being the primary rights holder- would be increased to at least 42 matches in the next auction.

A further rule which it will introduce from the 2017/18 season will mean a minimum of 30 matches a season will have to be made available to the second rights holder for broadcast on the weekend.

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