Ofcom is considering forcing Sky to allow rival operators to sell its DTT content direct to consumers. The proposal is included in the consultation published today into plans by Sky to replace its current three-channel line-up on the DTT platform and replace it with a pay-TV service.
In addition to the wholesale provision of key content to other retailers, including the interoperability of pay-TV services and set-top boxes, the regulator has also suggested limiting Sky’s ability to retail channels directly on the DTT platform. Ofcom has not made any direct recommendations at this stage.
The proposals from Sky and transmission company National Grid Wireless would see Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Three replaced by Sky Sports 1, Sky One and Sky Movies SD1. Timeslicing would allow the inclusion of an hour of Sky News and two third party channels in daytime; a factual channel and a children’s channel into the three available slots.
Earlier this week Sky gave details on its plans for Picnic, a new separately operated company, which would bring together the proposed DTT pay platform with broadband and telephony services. However, the regulator is at this time consulting only on the pay-TV elements. Sky has already offered to allow a horizontal market in receivers for the DTT service.
A key issue left to be discussed is whether Sky will be allow to switch to MPEG-4 compression, allowing the addition of further channels, and as a carrot to Ofcom the restoration of a 24-hour Sky News over DTT.
Ofcom says the Sky-NGW proposals raise issues surrounding competition and consumer interest. But the regulator had already lifted the bar on pay-TV services across DTT multiplexes where they were not already allowed.
After a shaky start for pay-TV services, DTT platforms are now examining a free-pay combination in many markets.
The closing date for responses to the consultation is December 14, 2007.