Virgin Media calls for Ofcom to halt Premier League TV auction
Broadcaster says sale, which raised £3bn in 2012, should be delayed until investigation is complete
Virgin Media has launched a last-ditch effort to halt the auction of Premier League live broadcast rights, claiming that Ofcom should stop the process until an investigation into spiralling costs has been completed.
The Premier League is expected to announce a new rights deal next month, which is expected to be worth even more than the £3bn raised by the last auction in 2012.
However, cable group Virgin Media wants the whole process put on ice until Ofcom reports back on a complaint it made last year over the rising costs of showing Premier League football.
"The cable operator has complained that the way the auction is set up means that football fans are likely to face higher bills for watching live matches," explains the Daily Telegraph.
Ofcom is investigating but its findings are not expected before March, by which time the rights for the next three seasons would already have been sold, meaning any recommendations could not be applied until the 2019 auction.
"The Premier League has pushed ahead with its early sale of TV rights despite Ofcom's investigation," said Virgin. "With 18 months until those deals begin, there is plenty of time for Ofcom to pause the auction process while it completes its inquiries."
Delaying the auction would be an "unprecedented step" says The Guardian. But it notes: "There have been predictions that the next auction could lead to a 60 per cent increase on the £3bn deal struck with BSkyB and BT two years ago."
In addition to Sky and BT, who currently own the live rights, American broadcaster, Discovery Communications, is also expected to join the fray, which could spark a bidding war.
The Premier League has described Virgin Media's intervention as "self-serving" and said Ofcom had been aware for two months that the rights auction would take place in February.