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Ofcom scraps football TV rights probe as Premier League increases live games

Published 08/08/2016

Leicester City captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri lift the trophy as the team celebrate winning the Barclays Premier League
Leicester City captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri lift the trophy as the team celebrate winning the Barclays Premier League

An investigation into the sale of TV rights for top-flight football matches has been ditched after the Premier League upped the number of games available for live broadcast.

Ofcom has shut down the probe following the Premier League's decision to increase the number of live matches to a minimum of 190 per season from the beginning of 2019/20.

The media regulator said it was also scrapping the investigation so it could use its resources "more effectively on other priorities".

Ofcom trained its sights on the Premier League after a complaint was lodged by Virgin Media about how live TV rights are auctioned.

The cable operator argued that by not showing all 380 matches live the Premier League was keeping prices high and driving down customer choice.

Responding to Ofcom's decision, Virgin Media welcomed the increase in live matches, but said customers are still not getting a fair deal on price.

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom's competition group director, said: "In deciding to close this case, we have listened carefully to football fans themselves, who expressed a range of views about how many matches should be televised.

"We've also taken into account the Premier League's decision to make more games available in future."

Research by the watchdog said 49% of customers were happy with both the overall number and the specific matches shown, while 17% were happy with the overall number of matches shown but would prefer different games.

The latest move by the Premier League means at least 22 more games will now available for live broadcast compared to the amount sold during its auction in 2015.

It adds to the extra 14 live matches made available for the football seasons between 2016 and 2019.

Tom Mockridge, chief executive of Virgin Media, said the company was pleased that after a two-year campaign the Premier League had agreed to show more live games.

The Premier League's next auction on live rights will feature a 'no single buyer' rule, meaning more than one broadcaster must be awarded rights to show games.

It will also save at least 42 matches per season for a second buyer, with a minimum of 30 available for broadcast at the weekend.

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