Sports broadcasters such as ITV, Sky and BT are being investigated by the competition watchdog for cartel-like behaviour in securing rights deals.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it has “reasonable grounds” to suspect that BT, ITV, Sky and IMG Media – which includes Premier League Productions – might have broken competition rules.

In a statement, the CMA 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.

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“At this stage the CMA believes it has reasonable grounds to suspect one or more breaches of competition law.”

It is investigating the broadcasters under Section 25 of the Competition Act, which allows the CMA to look into potential cartels.

Daily Echo: ITV is one of the broadcasters under investigation (PA)ITV is one of the broadcasters under investigation (PA)

The authority can launch a probe if it believes there is now or was at one point an agreement between companies.

At the moment the CMA has not reached a view as to whenever further action should be taken.

In response, a Sky spokesman said: “We are co-operating fully with the CMA.”

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.”