Some of Britain's biggest sports broadcasters are facing a competition investigation into potential "cartel-like behaviour" over the way they use freelance services.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it has "reasonable grounds" to suspect that Sky, BT (BT-A.L), ITV (ITV.L), and IMG Media, which includes Premier League Productions, might have broken competition rules.
The regulator said: "The investigation relates to the purchase by such companies of freelance services which support the production and broadcasting of sports content in the UK,” the CMA said.
"At this stage the CMA believes it has reasonable grounds to suspect one or more breaches of competition law."
It will now decide if there's enough evidence of an agreement between the firms to launch a full probe. The watchdog can launch an investigation if it believes there is now or was at one point an agreement between companies.
"The CMA has not reached a view as to whether there is sufficient evidence of an infringement of competition law for it to issue a statement of objections to any party or parties," it said.
Sky, ITV and BT have said they're cooperating with the CMA's inquiries.
In a statement to shareholders, ITV said it "notes the announcement today by the UK Competition and Markets Authority that it has opened an investigation into the purchase of freelance services, which support the production and broadcasting of sports content, in the United Kingdom by ITV and other named companies in the sector.
"ITV is committed to complying with competition law and is co-operating with the CMA’s inquiries. ITV does not propose to comment on this investigation further at this stage."
A BT Group spokesperson said: "We note today’s statement from the Competition and Markets Authority and are reviewing the details while co-operating fully with their team.
"It is clear that CMA’s investigation is focussed very specifically on the purchase of freelance services and not any other aspects of the BT Sport or wider BT Group business."
Yahoo Finance UK has contacted IMG Media for comment.
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