EA’s Soccer Tech Tie-Up Caused Sky To Breach Ofcom Rules

Sky Sports breached two Ofcom guidelines governing promotion and prominence of products in programmes, by showing the logo for games publisher Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS) 14 times during one football match.

As we reported in July, Premier League named Fifa 11 publisher EA its first ever “official sports technology partner”, guaranteeing its logo be included alongside new match statistics it feeds to licensed broadcasters.

Ofcom ruled that Sky Sports’ coverage of Everton’s 3-3 draw with Manchester United on September 10 breached rule 10.3 of its Broadcasting Code because EA’s logo was shown “in the absence of any editorial justification; the only purpose it could serve was to promote EA’s name and trade mark”. The 14 appearances breached rule 10.4 on “undue prominence” of a brand.

BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) had argued that it has no contract with and was not paid by EA – rather, the Premier League licensed EA as its “official sports technology partner” and compels broadcasters to operate under terms of their license. It therefore did not breach rule 10.5 on “product placement”. Sky’s contract with the league also compels it to include the logos in the feeds it supplies to international broadcasters on the league’s behalf.

It had also argued that inclusion was editorially justified since the EA logos were only triggered by showing match and goal stats, although “on this occasion, the application of the EA on-screen credit should have been subject to greater editorial judgement given the high-scoring nature of this particular game, which meant the credit was displayed on a higher than normal number of occasions”.

Sky conceded to Ofcom: “There were too many references to the EA on-screen credit due to a lack of appreciation for the risks involved in the mechanical application of the credit in a high scoring game such as this one (which ended 3-3)”.

Sky has since changed the practice: “The EA on-screen credit will not be applied in a mechanical fashion to all uses of the relevant statistical data in order to minimise the risks of any potential infringement of Ofcom”s codes”.