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Ofcom rejects Virgin Media calls to delay Premier League auction

UK broadcast regulator Ofcom has reject calls by Virgin Media to delay the current Premier League TV rights auction, claiming there is no “urgent need to intervene.”

Last month, Virgin called for a temporary halt to the auction while Ofcom concluded an ongoing investigation into the sales process. 

However, the Premier League responded by saying there was no basis for Virgin Media’s assertion that Ofcom would be constrained in its ability to intervene post auction – a view Ofcom sided with.

“Having considered the application, and submissions from Virgin Media and the Premier League, Ofcom has today decided to reject the application, as it does not consider that there is an urgent need to intervene to delay the auction,” said Ofcom.

“There will be a significant gap, of around 17 months, between the auction and the start of the 2016/2017 season when broadcasting of the relevant matches will commence. In the event that Ofcom’s investigation concludes that there is an infringement, Ofcom has the necessary powers to require the Premier League and Premier League clubs to make changes to arrangements for the broadcasting of matches within the time available before the start of the relevant season.

Ofcom launched its investigation into how the English Premier League sells live TV rights for its matches back in November, following a complaint by Virgin Media. It is considering whether there is a breach of the UK and/or EU competition law relating to the restriction or distortion of competition, and the potential harm to consumers arising from joint selling under the auction.

The current Premier League auction could be concluded as early as this month and covers TV rights for the period 2016 to 2019. Ofcom said it expects to publish a document with the findings of its investigation in March.