Are 3pm Premier League games on the way to UK TVs?

Every single Premier League fixture could be broadcast to UK TV sets in future years after Ofcom agreed to investigate a complaint filed by Virgin Media into how the broadcast rights are sold.

The media company complained in September that the 41 per cent of matches that are available under the current broadcast deal is far lower than other leagues across Europe, such as the Bundesliga and La Liga, and that it is driving up costs for consumers.

Ofcom agreed to investigate under section 25 of the Competition Act and it will seek to work out if there has been a breach of the UK or EU competition law that prohibits agreements and decisions that restrict or distort competition.

Saturday kick offs at 15:00 are one of the major sticking points that currently prevent more games being broadcast as there is a media blackout that stops UK companies from screening them live. This stems from the fear that it will cause supporters to vote with their feet by not attending games further down the pyramid and Ofcom is consulting the Football Supporters Federation to gain a rounded understanding of this issue.

The last auction for Premier League TV rights happened in 2012 when Sky and BT paid a combined £3 billion to screen just 154 live games out of the 380 played each season. Of that figure, Sky paid £2.3 billion and BT £738 million for three years worth of live coverage and it was up by 71 per cent compared with the previous rights sale.

The Premier League’s next rights auction takes place early next year for the three seasons from 2016-17 and Ofcom explained in its release that it is open to a discussion with the Premier League about these plans.

As it stands it seems unlikely that Ofcom will be able to sort the situation out in time for that rights auction and the next opportunity to amend the status quo won’t be until the 2019-20 Premier League season.

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