June 28, 2009

OFCOM's report on Pay TV

I've still not read the whole report but I have given what I've read some consideration over the weekend. Essentially, I do believe in fairness and honour in business but also understand that everyone needs to make an honest buck. So I do sympathise to some degree with Sky - as they've protested over the last few days, they make the investment, they should be able to reap the rewards.
To a point.
But over the last ten years the regulators have turned a blind eye to the flagrant abuse of commercial power that Sky's investment has given it. Sky prices its premium channels out of the reach of the competition or, as in VM's case, where they can only have those channels at a cost that makes them commercial suicide (VM lose money with every premium sub they sell). What's more its emerged that Sky even tie up some rights (eg subscription VoD movies) with the deals they do and then do not use them as the Sky platform can't deliver it properly. So much for consumer choice.
OFCOM is now showing some balls. Good for them. Inevitably the report's findings will either be watered down, spun out in the courts or uneven compromises will be reached because Sky is simply too powerful and doesn't like an even playing field. But hopefully all parties can get something out of this - VM will get a better commercial deal and access to the HD it so desperately needs. BT will get the channels to make BT Vision a serious competitor. Tiscali and the other fledgling IPTV operations may finally get access to the content to deliver the promised next generation of TV. And even Sky will get more revenues by selling the premium content to more platforms, albeit at a reduced rate.
Sky will whine and moan and thrash around the playground like any bully who's been found out, but the abuse of the monopoly it has built has been so flagrant and the attitude so arrogant that OFCOM's recommendations should be warmly welcomed by all but the most passionate Sky worshipper. I don't hate Sky - I think they provide an exceptional service to their customers and have helped make UK TV some of the best in the world - but some areas of their business practises needed addressing.
The only real question is why did it take OFCOM so long.
Believe in better...maybe we all can now.