Virgin Media last night made an 11th-hour bid to block the Premier League’s multi-billion pound auction by calling on media regulator Ofcom to use its emergency power to halt the bidding which is currently expected to conclude next Friday.
Virgin, which met with Ofcom two weeks ago to discuss a separate ongoing competition investigation into the process by which the Premier League sells its rights, said yesterday: “We are urging Ofcom to use its powers to temporarily halt the Premier League’s auction of live UK television rights until it has concluded its investigation into the process.”
It argued that if the auction is not paused the decisions from Ofcom’s competition investigation into the process, due to conclude in March, would likely have no impact until the next auction in 2019.
The Premier League called Virgin’s comments “self-serving” adding: “The League’s sales process will be conducted fully in compliance with competition law and there is no legal basis whatsoever for any interference with the sales process or the legitimate operation of the market.”
In 2012 BT and Sky together invested £3bn for their Premier League TV packages. This year bids are expected to top at least £4bn as the competition for the rights heats up with BT attempting to use sport to protect and grow its broadband business, and Sky doing the same to protect its Pay-TV empire – and Discovery touted as a potential third bidder.
“Virgin Media has today made an application for interim measures, which we must now review. We aim to reach a decision in a matter of days,” said an Ofcom spokesperson.