Wednesday 21 March 2018

EU launches case against Sky and US movie studios

NBCUniversal, which makes the hit TV show ‘NCIS’, is among the companies named by the EU Commission
NBCUniversal, which makes the hit TV show ‘NCIS’, is among the companies named by the EU Commission

The European Union has launched an antitrust case against six major US movie studios, including Disney and Warner Bros, and Sky for restricting access across the 28-country bloc.

The EU's executive Commission said yesterday it had sent a statement of objections to them regarding what it says are "contractual restrictions" preventing Sky offering its full service to consumers beyond Britain and Ireland.

The companies mentioned are NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony and Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, Warner Bros and Sky UK.

"European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channels of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU," EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

"Our investigation shows that they cannot do this today."

Since the suspected restriction runs counter to one of the cornerstones of the EU - the abolition of all impediment to trade within its borders - the Sky UK case raises questions for other broadcasters across Europe. The Commission confirmed it is also looking into similar cases including Canal Plus of France, Sky Italia of Italy, Germany's Sky Deutschland and DTS of Spain.

"We continue to examine cross-border access to pay-TV services in these member states," said Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso.

In a statement, Sky acknowledged receipt of the Commission's objections and said it will "respond in due course".

The Commission, which opened a probe in January 2014, found clauses requiring Sky to block access to films through its online or satellite pay-TV services to consumers outside Britain and Ireland - so-called "geo-blocking."

"Licensing agreements between the major film studios and Sky UK do not allow consumers in other EU countries to access Sky's UK and Irish pay-TV services, via satellite or online," Vestager said. "We believe that this may be in breach of EU competition rules."

The firms named now have the right to respond. There is no legal deadline for the Commission to complete antitrust inquiries.

Irish Independent

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