[A2k] EU launches probe into Hollywood film licensing

Riaz K Tayob riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Mon Jan 13 13:56:09 PST 2014

EU launches probe into Hollywood film licensing

Today @ 18:18


     By Benjamin Fox
     Benjamin email

BRUSSELS - 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.

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

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."

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.

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