LONDON Feb 17 Britain's Court of Appeal on
Monday ruled that a lower court should look again at how pay-TV
group BSkyB sells its sports channels to rivals, in the
latest twist in a near four-year battle.
Market regulator Ofcom ruled in March 2010 that Rupert
Murdoch's BSkyB should make its two main sports channels
available to rivals such as Virgin Media and BT
at a lower price.
Sky, which built its business around offering exclusive
sports programming, responded by taking the case to the
Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). When that ruled in its
favour, BSkyB's rivals took the case to the higher Court of
On Monday, the Court of Appeal said it could not uphold the
earlier CAT ruling because it had failed to take into
consideration whether the prices charged by Sky gave rise to
"competition concerns" for its rivals.
"The only way in which this error can satisfactorily be
dealt with is for the order of the CAT of 6 March 2013 to be set
aside and for the matter to be remitted to the CAT for further
consideration, findings and conclusions," the court said.
BSkyB, which offers pay-TV, broadband and telephony to
customers in more than 10 million homes, said the CAT would now
only look at a very specific aspect of the case. Sky said the
ruling did not change the fundamental finding that it had
engaged constructively with other distributors over the supply
of its sports channels.
"Sky continues to believe that Ofcom's 2010 decision is
flawed and that the (wholesale) obligation ought properly to be
removed, and will continue to pursue all available options to
achieve this aim," it said.
Shares in BSkyB were up 1 percent at 899.50 pence by 1450
GMT, when the FTSE 100 index was up 1.2 percent.
Regulator Ofcom said it welcomed the ruling.
"Ensuring fair and effective competition in the pay TV
market has always been Ofcom's objective," it said. "Ofcom's
2010 decision that Sky must offer premium sports channels to
other providers was designed to deliver choice and innovation to
consumers through greater competition."