The UK competition watchdog launched an investigation this morning into whether BT, IMG Media, ITV and Sky are unfairly fixing the price of freelancer talent in the sports production and broadcast space.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it has “reasonable grounds” to suspect one or more breaches of law, but said it has not yet reached a view as to whether there was sufficient evidence of an infringement with the media giants’ purchase of services, including the use of camera crew and sound engineers.
The firms are being investigated under Section 25 of the Competition Act, which allows the watchdog to look into potential cartels.
Commenting on the fresh investigation, partner at Addleshaw Goddard Rona Bar-Isaac told City A.M. that the fresh case was interesting because it focused on the purchase of services rather than on the sale side.
She said this was an area the CMA has “not traditionally prioritised as lower costs would usually be expected to mean lower prices for the end consumer.”
TMT analyst at PP Foresight Paolo Pescatore told City A.M. that “you cannot ignore the timing” of the case either, pointing to the recent BT Sport/Discovery joint venture.
He added that we should “expect to see greater focus on sports broadcasters over coming years”, with streamers like Amazon Prime entering the space.
ITV told shareholders this morning that it was committed to complying with competition law and is cooperating with inquiries.
Sky and BT said they were also co-operating, with the latter making clear that the investigation was focussed very specifically on the purchase of freelance services.