BSkyB Soccer Deal to Incur European Antitrust Charges

03 December 2003

England's Premier League faces fresh antitrust allegations over its sale of broadcast rights to satellite-TV giant BSkyB.

The European Commission this week indicated that new charges against the elite soccer division were imminent following its latest deal with the Murdoch-controlled media group.

BSkyB has monopolised live Premier League coverage since the 1992/1993 season, using football's popularity to help build its pay-TV business. This has attracted criticism from European competition regulators, which last December issued a formal 'statement of objections' to the soccer body.

In a bid to open the sector to competition, the League offered four different live packages in its latest broadcast rights auction in August. BSkyB, however, paid £1.024 billion ($1.76bn; €1.47bn) to secure all four packages, thereby gaining live rights to even more matches than before [WAMN: 11-Aug-03]. This agreement is due to last for three years from the 2004/2005 season.

August's deal soon came under fire from European regulators. In October, competition commissioner Mario Monti denounced it as "bad for competition on broadcasting markets, and … bad for consumers."

The Commission says it will deliver the new antitrust charges "very shortly". The Premier League will then have two months to respond.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff