BT has won a court battle to force the competition tribunal to re-examine its decision to stop BSkyB being forced to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 to rivals at a discount.
In summer 2012 the Competition Appeal Tribunal handed down a scathing judgment concluding that the basis of media regulator Ofcom's decision to force BSkyB to cut the amount it charges rivals to air Sky Sports was "unfounded".
Lord Justice Aikens said that the CAT failed to properly investigate the issue the level of discounts that BSkyB claimed it gave rivals on the ratecard price for its sports channels.
"There remain significant, independent, competition concerns based on the rate-card price and penetration discount, as found by Ofcom," said Aikens. "The reasons that the CAT gave for not considering that matter further were inadequate. I would propose that the matter be remitted to the CAT for further consideration in order that further findings and conclusions may be made in the light of this judgment."
Ofcom proposed to introduce a new pricing structure in March 2010, which would have made Sky Sports 1 and 2 up to 23% cheaper than the previous wholesale price, after determining that BSkyB was abusing its power in the market.
"We are glad that this issue will now be considered afresh and are hopeful that the outcome will finally deliver increased competition in pay-TV which would be in the best interests of consumers," said a spokeswoman for BT. "Ofcom was correct to impose the wholesale must offer ('WMO') on Sky and this remains essential to address the significant competition concerns with Sky's supply of its channels."
BT said that it is still unable to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 on YouView, the TV service it is banking on building it into a major pay-TV player.
"Sky's refusal to offer access to these channels on reasonable terms causes serious harm to consumers and must be resolved urgently," said BT.
A spokesman for Ofcom, which had its reputation battered by the CAT's original decision, said that it welcomed the decision.
"Ofcom welcomes the court of appeal's decision that the judgment of the Competition Appeal Tribunal failed properly to consider Ofcom's findings that there was ineffective competition in the market," a spokesman said. "Ensuring fair and effective competition in the pay-TV market has always been Ofcom's objective. Ofcom's 2010 decision that Sky must offer premium sports channels to other providers was designed to deliver choice and innovation to consumers through greater competition."
Sky said in a statement: "This does not alter in any way the CAT's fundamental findings, overturning Ofcom, that Sky engaged constructively with other distributors over the supply of its premium sports channels, and that Virgin Media is able to compete effectively with Sky on the basis of Sky's rate card prices.
"Sky continues to believe that Ofcom's 2010 decision is flawed and that the WMO obligation ought properly to be removed, and will continue to pursue all available options to achieve this aim."
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