Sunday

25th Sep 2016

EU launches probe into Hollywood film licensing

  • Almunia siad he is not obliging studios to buy pan-EU licences (Photo: Express Monorail)

Hollywood film giants and some of Europe's biggest pay-TV networks face an EU investigation into claims they are breaking competition rules, the European Commission has announced.

In a statement on Monday (13 January), the commission said that it would investigate whether licensing deals for Hollywood films were leading to broadcasters "refusing potential subscribers from other member states or blocking cross-border access to their services."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The commission will investigate whether the licensing of Hollywood films breaks EU anti-trust rules. (Photo: Alexis Fam)

Warner Bros, Rupert Murdoch's Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount are among the film studios at the centre of the probe together with broadcast networks Sky - which Murdoch also owns a 39 percent stake of - Canal Plus and Spain's DTS.

In particular, the EU executive plans to examine cases where subscribers to a TV service in one EU country are blocked from watching films if they are in another country. Most films are licensed to a single pay-TV broadcaster on an individual country-by-country basis.

"We are not calling into question the possibility to grant licenses on a territorial basis, or trying to oblige studios to sell rights on a pan-European basis," said EU competition boss Joaquin Almunia.

An increasing number of Europeans use pay-TV services broadcast by satellite and online streaming on their computers but find themselves unable to watch programmes when they are outside their home country.

"We will also look at what happens to subscribers who holiday or spend time in a country outside their home country," said Almunia, adding that "absolute exclusivity can be anti-trust if it prevents competition."

Almunia added that the commission had not set a deadline for the case and would not "prejudge the outcome."

Reducing the capacity for single country licensing could lower the value of film rights.

The probe follows in the footsteps of the landmark ruling by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the licensing of football matches.

In October 2011 the court's Premier League/Murphy judgement found that giving absolute territorial exclusivity to a single broadcaster could be anti-competitive if it eliminated all competition between broadcasters and partitioned the bloc's single market along national borders.

The ECJ also ruled that English pub owner Sharon Murphy had not broken the law by buying decoder cards and subscriptions for Greek satellite channels showing the matches which were cheaper than subscribing to Sky Sports, which owns the rights to most Premier League games in the UK.

Balkan leaders pledge to keep out migrants

Balkan leaders said in New York there would be no repetition of last year's mass influx of refugees, as the EU prepares to launch a new border force to keep people out.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  2. HuaweiAn Industry-leading ICT Solution Provider and Building a Better World
  3. World VisionUN Refugees Meeting a Wasted Opportunity to Improve the Lives of Millions of Children
  4. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?
  5. YouthProAktivEntrepreneurship, Proactivity, Innovation - Turn Ideas Into Action #IPS2016
  6. GoogleTrimming the Waste-Line: Weaving Circular Economy Principles Into Our Operations
  7. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeDon't Miss the Mega Conference to Master Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  8. Martens CentreFighting Terrorism: Do we have what it takes? 26 September, Brussels
  9. ACCAKaras Report on Access to Finance for SMEs in a Capital Markets Union
  10. Centre Maurits Coppieters"I still believe we can change Europe" Said David Grosclaude
  11. World VisionThe Child Protection Index to be Launched in Brussels on 28 September 2016
  12. HuaweiDigital Transformation: Unleashing Europe’s Potential