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Ofcom has closed its investigation into how the Premier League sells live UK audio-visual media rights for Premier League football matches.

 

The investigation, carried out under the Competition Act 1998, considered whether the selling arrangements of the Premier League restricted or distorted competition.

 

In closing the investigation, Ofcom has taken into account the Premier League’s recent decision to increase the number of matches available for live broadcast in the UK, to a minimum of 190 per season from the start of the 2019/20 season. This will be an increase of at least 22 matches per season over the number sold for live broadcast in the Premier League’s auction in 2015. 

 

The Premier League’s decision to increase matches available in its next auction for live TV rights builds upon commitments given to the European Commission in 2006.

 

The next auction will include a ‘no single buyer’ rule, which means that more than one broadcaster must be awarded rights. At least 42 matches per season will be reserved for a second buyer, of which a minimum of 30 will be available for broadcast at the weekend.

 

Consumer research

 

Ofcom also took into account the results of consumer research it carried out to understand the preferences of match-going fans and those watching on TV in relation to Premier League matches. Ofcom has today published the results of the consumer research undertaken as part of the investigation.

 

A fifth of fans said they wanted to see more matches televised live. A similar proportion said they were happy with the overall number of matches broadcast live, but wanted to see different matches shown.

 

Among match-going fans, a high proportion said that the day of the week and kick-off time was of high importance, with over two-thirds of this group identifying the Saturday 3pm kick off as their preferred time to attend.

 

We believe that a balance would need to be struck between the potential benefits of releasing more matches for live broadcast, and the potential disruption on match-going fans due to these games being rescheduled to be broadcast outside of the ‘closed period’. The closed period is between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on a Saturday.

 

Due to the range of views expressed in the consumer research, significant further work – including additional research among football fans – would be required to conclude this investigation. 

 

Given the considerations outlined above, we have decided to close the investigation. Ofcom’s resources could be used more effectively on other priorities to benefit consumers and competition.

 

Image: Action Images / Alan Walter