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back to article Sky loses pub footy case

Sky has no legal right to stop people using cheaper non-UK decoders, according to a European legal opinion. This is not a binding opinion, but it deals a blow to Sky's desire to license its content country-by-country within the EU. Karen Murphy, a pub landlady from Portsmouth, faced £8,000 in fines and costs for using a Greek …

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Europe when it suits.

Just like with mobile phones there seems to only be a "European Union" when its at a cost to you and I.

If i have to use the same currency and face the same monetry policy and soon the same rights for police in an increasingly united states of Europe, then why can a company treat it like the separate country entities when it maximises profits.

I am not anti-europe but do it or don't do it, this silliness just means its pants for everyone (except those who suddenly find they can benefit from economic migration).

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WTF?

Like when it suits your roaming charges perhaps

What are you moaning about?

Without the "European Union" you would still be paying £1 a minute for roaming whilst on holiday in the EU and still be paying £5 per MB for "roaming data" because, of course, local Internet access is so much more expensive to provide when the user is in another country. Next time you are on holiday make a cheap call to thank Ms Vivien Reding for everything she has already done for you.

Yes, it would be ideal if the Commission could also shut down the local pricing differentials but they are already closing down many of the scams that the mobile operators and other thieving bastards pull. Just look at what has happened to the prices of domestic white goods in the Euro zone since the Commission enforced the right to buy and receive warranty from any EU state. Now Germans pay the same for a Bosch washing machine made badly in Spain as the Spanish do and retailers can buy stock in any territory.

If the Commission gets any more pro consumer and anti corporate profiteering the Americans will have to invade and "bring democracy" to our horrible socialist state so that our oppressed population can get back to existing only to make corporates richer.

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Flame

Re: If the Commission gets any more pro consumer

Well they could start by deciding that grey imports are *not* covered by Copyright and Trade Mark legislation!

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@The Cube

Steelie Neelie for prez of the world. I am learning German in hopes to move to the EU...but I will stick around just long enough to see if Canada signing CETA changes anything here. We are completely dependant upon the US for our Economy right now...I suspect that CETA would change that in just a couple of years. Might start our social policies back towards "sanity and logic" and away from "Tea Party and ***ing bonkers."

Either way; go EU!

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TV et al

According to the EU, nationals of a country are free to watch a TV program wherever they may be in the EU without let or hindrance. This also applies to I believe any form of transmission, eg internet.

Now sky and others have been probably breaking the law on the methodology and also others over the copyright thing. Hopefully this will bring about the fall of EU sectionism and lack of EU freedoms being blocked by big money not getting things all their own way.

We should all badger the EU to get the same union rights as the US, why is it that a person in Illinois can get Florida radio and TV yet a French man living in Dover is not allowed to receive French TV and radio on the internet.

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Big Brother

powerful "interests" will ensure this doesn't get through...

Or else I could look forward to being allowed to buy "designer" clothes imported for retail sale from other EU countries. Oh, hang on, that's not allowed. Wish they'd make there minds up.

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Flame

You can do it already, what is your problem?

For example: I know which factories in Bulgaria do the manufacturing for some of the boutique French and Italian labels and where exactly do they sell unlabelled surplus. As it is in the same country and there is no export-import it is totally legal.

To be more exact, it took the wife an hour to figure that one out a couple of years back.

If you were _THAT_ interested in having the same suit for 40£ instead of 4000£+ sans the label you would have long figured that out.

So stop grumbling and apply Google creatively for your own benefit to see exactly where do French and Italian manufacture their stuff. Find the closest 100,000-300,000 town. Walk the small shops (not the mall) downtown. You should hit the surplus shops on the 2nd-3rd attempt.

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Yep

Just bought a grey import D7000. Nikon say they won't honour the warranty, but I've never used a Nikon warranty anyway.

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Title

Surely if it is a europe wide agreement they have to?

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Anonymous Coward

Great News

Hopefully sheeple will work out that Satellite TV != Sky soon too.

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Anonymous Coward

She used a card that was way too expensive

The Greek service is actually overly expensive.

Price for a Sat package which includes Sports, Animal planet, the lot from BulsatCom - under 7£ per month. Polish packages are roughly the same in terms of price.

A comparable package on Sky starts at 19.50£ and is maintained solely by means of "contractual geographic restrictions".

If that is not a violation of the EU common market policies dunno what is.

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"7£"?

Second time in this comment thread that someone has failed to express the currency properly!

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Pub Licenses are Different

You are quoting domestic packages, to show footy in pubs is another package and it's expensive. Have you ever noticed the 'pint glass symbol'? That is shown in pub broadcasts.

TV/SAT companies carving up the EU is wrong. The EU is meant to open boarders not close them. We should be able to watch TV from all EU states and buy packages from anywhere. SKY did a deal with Maggie to somehow grant exclusive deals to Ruppie.

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lou

Contractual matter between Greeks and Premier League?

Surely the contract between the EPL and the Greek broadcaster will state that they have the right to broadcast in their own territory and not beyond?

I'd have thought that they were likely in breach of their own contract with the EPL.

The legality of that contract is another matter, but I guess it was entered into willingly by both parties.

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Legal smeagal

That is the whole point of this case. Is it legal to have separate rights for each EU country for the same product? The whole point about the EU is that everything is equal.

If it goes some way to dealing a mortal blow to Murdoch, great. I like my football but being forced to pay an extortionate amount of money each year to the dirty digger really gets my goat, subsidising useless gits expensive lifestyles (ie the John Terry's of this world).

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Anonymous Coward

Satellite coverage

Any Satellite the Greeks are using will probably broadcast to all of Europe (and perhaps parts of North Africa). The Greek broadcaster does not have a choice about this. The only way they can limit reception is by limiting the sale of its decoders to within their own borders. This will not stop anybody from physically moving a decoder from Greece to a Portsmouth pub.

Theoretically the Greek broadcaster could buy and launch its own satellite with some sort of template that only allowed signals to reach Greece but this would be so expensive that they would end up bankrupt.

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Don't get too ecstatic

On the face of it, you might think that this is great - and there are lots of good arguments for the tearing down of territory-based rights restrictions in various ways.

For a while, you might even be able to buy a cheap foreign card and point your dish at the right beam to pick up football for a bit less.

However, if the PL is no longer able to sell rights per territory, what happens next? Is there a cheery free for all, with people all over Europe buying cards willy nilly? Or will the PL decide that they will sell one package of rights for the whole of Europe?

If they do that, who do you think has pockets deep enough to buy those pan-European rights, and potentially sell them on to 'partner' broadcasters in other countries?

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Greek Broadcasters

You are probably right, the Greek Broadcasters probably don't have the right to broadcast to Britain, which would mean that they shouldn't be selling decoders and cards to british addresses.

However, this case was about Sky claiming they could stop customers using a source other than Sky which isn't quite the same thing. This is a contract issue between Sky / The Premiership / The Greek Broadcaster, not a legal issue involving the customer.

Sky went after the wrong people, there was no way a judge would rule that a consumer couldn't use a competitors product given the whole point of the EU is to ensure freetrade within the EU.

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lou

Spot Beams, CA Callback, etc etc

There are lots of ways a broadcaster can limit where the coverage can be received and/or decoded.

The use of spot beams, getting the STB to 'phone home' and so on, and that's before you get into the clever ways of doing it.

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Stop

Missing the point I think

"If they do that, who do you think has pockets deep enough to buy those pan-European rights, and potentially sell them on to 'partner' broadcasters in other countries?"

Talk about selling regional rights is the core problem.

The fact that some commercial organisation can deal to get exclusivity in a region is basically anti-competitive whether it be country-wide or anywhere else for that matter. They are basically saying that others cannot sell that product in a region. This has no place in an open market and makes no sense in the modern global economy anyway.

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Not at all

The issue is not that there is exclusivity of rights per-se, but that the way it is done prevents people from buying from elsewhere in the EU.

The point that quite a few seem to have missed is that - as is widely thought my many people - the result of this is that the PL sells rights on a pan-European basis, instead of regionally, then there are very few companies with the scale and resources to buy them.

Sky is one (Mediaset has been mooted as another). Sky already has retail operations in the UK, Italy and Germany. If it bought pan-European rights, it would then be able to retail through partners in other countries - in just the same way as it retails through TopUpTV and Virgin in the UK.

There would be competition, because you could buy from different broadcasters. But effectively, as with the situation in the UK now, Sky would set the base price and the only way anyone could offer a lower one would be via different bundling arrangements, or selling below cost.

There is no suggestion at all in the ruling that rights will have be to sold to multiple people per territory; simply that when someone has rights to one country, chasing after the punters like this is not on, and is a breach of the single market rules.

This ultimately makes the rights to a single country less attractive, because a few (though not many, I bet) will buy from elsewhere and put up with on-screen graphics in a different language, and needing another dish. Some companies may aggressively try to push their sales into other territories, rather than tacitly going along with the middle men who typically do this at the moment.

And so, as the value of single territory rights drops, because of increased competition, it becomes more likely the Premier League will want to sell across the continent. And, at the same time, the big groups like Sky will see a chance to grab a stranglehold by buying those rights, and retailing via partners.

So, if the country by country regime falls by the wayside, there is a very real possibility that, far from getting to stick it to Sky, as many people fervently wish, they may actually end up stronger (or, if not Sky, one of the other big European media groups may triumph).

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Not so bad

An £8k fine is probably slightly less than the actual UK monthly Sky Sports fee anyway.

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Pint

This actually may be true..

The manager of my local told me that he was paying £1,200 per month for Sky so he has now switched to a foreign decoder at a fraction of that. He also said he was charged by Sky according to the size in area of the pub. Now this is a pretty small pub so I would hate to think what others pay if this is true. They just brought it on themselves.

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Good news!

I heard a guy from the soccer cartel (whatever it's called these days) threatening to withhold soccer matches from British telly altogether if this opinion is upheld in the courts.

There's just no downside to this at all, is there?

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Happy

Football fans are very passionate about the game

I can imagine this person will be swinging from the nearest lamp post within 5 minutes of this going into effect, if they tried it!

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Anonymous Coward

@The Fuzzy Wotnot

Ah, but the British have been beaten into submission over so many things lately, both domestically and internationally, that they'd probably just lay down and accept it.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: @The Fuzzy Wotnot

Yeah, we totally suck, as the Americans would say, right?

(It's 'lie down', I believe.)

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lou

But we're not dealing with countries

I think this talk of countries is wide of the mark.

The Premier League, along with all content owners, sells rights to broadcasters, not nations.

There is no law that says a supplier must sell at the same price to all customers, right? If I have a bag of widgets to sell, if I can get €10 from customer A and €15 from customer B that's down to me. The EU can't knock on my door and tell me to stop.

So, assuming the Greek satcaster has a contract with EPL not to broadcast outside Greece, surely that's where the problem is? And that has to be a matter between content owner and content broadcaster?

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Broadcast outside Greece?

Possibly someone more knowledgeable on the matter could correct me, but is the broadcast still actually made in Greece? Surely that's where the transmission originates, and the end user is just pointing their dish at the satellite? Is there anything stopping me buying a subscription in Greece and setting it up here?

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Anonymous Coward

But we are not dealing with Terrestrial TV

ITS a Satellite. Every satellite broadcaster in Europe broadcasts to nearly all of Europe. They have no choice because its a satellite!!

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Grenade

RE: But we're not dealing with countries

No, we're deailng with products that are equally available in multiple countries inside the European Union.

The EU mandates that such products shall be equally priced in every EU country.

For the case that got everything rolling, search for something akin "Germans buying VW Golf across border", where some long years ago Germans would go cross-border to buy a VW Golf, import it into Germany, and still be cheaper off compared to buying it in Germany directly.

You could argue the same thing with gasoline for your car. Or with clothes, or with anything that is sold in multiple countries in the EU, the EU dictates that stuff is equally priced. Simply to stop local shopowners going bankrupt because everybody goes cross-border.

Now this case: Sky Greece sells EPL for £5 in Greece, and EPL for £19.50 in the UK. That's thusly not allowed. Either the Greece have to pay more, or the UK people less, or both.

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Sort of ...

The PL sells rights to a broadcaster, but they sell the right to broadcast those programmes to a particular territory (which is why, for example, the Sky contract says you should be in the UK; using a Sky box in France, say, is a breach of that contract).

And, in some countries those rights might cost more, depending on the popularity of the Premier League (or whatever else is being sold) and the circumstances in that country. For the UK in particular, the PL and its players have grown fat and greedy thanks to Sky's determination to beat other broadcasters off, and hang on to the rights.

In other countries, if there's no competition, then the PL might not get much for the rights, and so the local broadcaster can sell them for less to their own subscribers.

But all that's possible on the understanding that those broadcasters then don't sell subscriptions to people in other territories; and the Greek one is clearly quite happy to sell them to a Portsmouth pub owner. At which point, the PL steps in and says "Hang on, we thought we had the rights to that, sod off"

The EU already has rules that say you can't prevent reception in one country of broadcasts from another (with very few exceptions, which don't include this). The rights regime is the thing that's supposed to stop Greeks selling cards to UK residents, and it's that that is likely to be determined to be against the EU rules.

You're right that the Greek broadcaster doesn't have to sell at the same price to everyone; that's not at issue. They could charge more to a UK customer, for extra admin, or because they feel like it. But what the Advocate has said said is that, regardless of the rights, they should be able to sell to that UK customer, and the PL shouldn't be going round fining someone just for buying something from a country in the EU where it's cheaper than in the UK.

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lou

Satellite TV footprint can be restricted

Satellite TV can be beamed into specific areas just like terrestrial.

Think of the satellite like a giant Maglite, it can do a wide beams and spot beams at the same time.

Even once the signal has been received there are many ways to limit the decoding of that signal to a specific group of people.

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Anonymous Coward

Title here.

I think the point is that as consumers within the EU, we can chose to purchase your widgets from any EU country. You as a company don't have the right to say "those widgets I sold in Greece can only be bought by Greek people and used in Greece".

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Yes but

Surely this would have to be a tranciever by Tranciever thing, and satelite trancievers are expensive wee beasties to hire.

On top of that, as you would be able to use the tranciever for one area, there would be less different channels you could share the costs with, so not only would you cover less of an area, the individual channel cost would go up as well.

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Not necessarily equally available

As I understand the product is not equally available in all countries. Different broadcasters get rights to different games. Specifically with football, no UK broadcaster gets rights to broadcast games kicking off at 3pm on a Saturday, this is partly to protect the gate receipts of smaller clubs. Foreign broadcasters often do get rights to these games. Surely this has to be considered?

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lou

You're confusing the content owner and licensees

The PL is the rights owner, they sell to broadcasters.

Sky, the Greek Broadcaster and any number of others are licensees.

Sky are, mistakenly, suing a pub for not using Sky, I'd agree this is doomed. As under EU law a consumer can buy goods and services from anywhere in Europe.

Whether or not the Greeks have the rights to broadcast to the UK is another matter. The PL could, if they wanted, go after them for broadcasting outside the contractually agreed area.

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lou

Not comparing apples with apples

But it's not the same company!

The rights are sold by one company to the highest bidder in each country.

It's not Sky UK and Sky Greece charging different prices, it's Sky UK and a Greek Broadcaster charging different prices. There is no law to say any product must be sold at the same price by different vendors.

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Ummm, no...

Sorry, but "with anything that is sold in multiple countries in the EU, the EU dictates that stuff is equally priced" is wrong.

There are plenty of examples where that's patently not the case. What the EU says is that people should be able to shop freely, and buy from wherever they want, and the hope is that a single market will, ultimately, lead to the harmonisation of prices.

But they can't dictate that things are equally priced because a) they don't like price fixing and b) retail taxation (eg VAT) isn't harmonised across the EU, or even within the Eurozone.

The main reason people buy a car from one country instead of another is precisely because it's cheaper, due to differences in things like first registration fees, and an EU insistence that thing like warranties aren't restricted when you do that.

There are lots of areas where people do shop cross-border, because it's cheaper - they do it in some areas for alcohol - the Baltic has a busy trade of ferries carrying drunken Scandinavians to and from Germany - or tobacco; around the Irish/NI border, the flow of traffic depends on the relative strength of the currencies. And sometimes, yes, local outlets near borders suffer as a result.

Notwithstanding firms like Apple, who now set a uniform EU price for the sake of simplicity, prices do vary considerably between countries, and (except in cases of profiteering, like wholesale mobile roaming rates) the EU doesn't generally have a problem with that.

What they do insist upon is that you have the freedom to buy from where things are cheaper, and in this case, the Advocate has decided that that freedom should trump the right of the the PL to sell by territory.

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@lou

It all depends on the satellite. There are several different satellite systems in geo-synchronous orbit including Astra, Eurobird, Hotbird, Eutelsat amongst many others. Not all of their transmission footprints are the same, and some are better in southern Europe, and some in north/north west. For example, most of the working Astra 1 and 2 satellites cover most of northern Europe, but not southern Italy or Greece. Chances are the pub was using one of the other satellites which cover southern Europe, some of which are nor encrypted and can be picked up using equipment with the right dish, even though it is not intended for a particular region.

It really is an issue with the content provider and the broadcasting company, as has been pointed out in other comments. Sky cannot prevent someone buying equipment to point at an out-of-region marginal satellite, even if it does overlap with their paid-for service.

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EU

Under EU law its straight competition if the supplier does not like it tuff. It is not illegal to buy and use a Sky box in the world, there is no law that says you cannot and in fact the stupid bit of paper that sky wants you to sign for the contract is actually commiting an offence to try to restrict it to certain areas.

That was actually admitted on ITV when they said it was illegal bla bla and they had to do an apology.

If a thing is purchased in the EU its legal in all the EU.

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The irony

Sky initially only had a licence to broadcast to Luxembourg. BSB thought it had a monopoly on the British satellite market but unfortunately signals from Astra satellites bled occasionally over the borders of Luxembourg to cover the whole of North and Western Europe. So Sky's position is doomed by its own precedent. Remarkable how long they've been able to milk it though.

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Doomed? I'm not so sure

I'm really not convinced that Sky is doomed, as I hinted above.

I'm no fan of Sky, personally, and I think it will be great for viewers if they can get things cheaper. But while this may look like a slap in the face for them and the greedy sods of the Premier League, I wouldn't be so sure, just yet. It may turn out to be something of a pyrrhic victory for the consumer.

Ultimately, it will depend on the final ruling, and what the Premier League does next.

Best case for the punters, if selling rights by territory is deemed not allowable, is that the Premier League decides that they'll sell rights on a European basis, non-exclusively, perhaps one broadcaster per country. Ordinary punters will still be able to shop around the continent to find a suitable broadcaster and buy a package at the price that suits them. They may save money - but in fact, I'm not honestly sure how many people will do this, given that they'll probably need a second dish and receiver set up to do it.

Some will, sure - but how much will they save? If that Greek broadcaster can now only buy a package that includes the rights for the whole of Europe, will they be able to retail it quite as cheaply as they can at the moment? And will the saving be enough for fans to put up with the extra dish and foreign language commentary?

Worst case is probably that the Premier League decides to sell a single exclusive set of pan-European rights, to just one broadcaster, which may then sell on the rights within some territories, to local retail partners. Perhaps the EBU members could club together, but do you really think that's likely? Far more likely that Sky - with their existing operations in Italy and Germany contributing - would be the one group that snapped up the package.

Sky and the Premier League are pretty close, not surprisingly, and they will almost certainly be working out ways in which they can turn this to their advantage, no matter what the outcome. I know that's not a popular opinion (waiting for all the thumbs downs!), but they're certainly not going to shrug and say "Oh well, that gravy train's stopped, never mind"

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Anonymous Coward

freetards

Google Spiderbox

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Alert

Murdoch losing? Just give him a little time to show his 'appreciation' so the judges get it right.

There are so many price differentials in the EU - it always seems the British are getting the short end of the stick. The EU has been in existence long enough for all external vendors to understand the rules.

Unfortunately Canada also suffers from the same price discrimination but only with different countries.

There are English and French TV networks with different 'blackout' rules and often English speaking people will view a match on the French network with the sound turned down using the English radio network as the source of commentary!

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So Sorry R Murdoch...

lols, although i'm sure they will work out a new method to continue stiff us all.

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Waiting for the News International response

Even now the finest minds of the Murdoch press will be trying to retain Sky viewers with a hearts and minds campaign based around a high-minded concept such as 'foreign telly gives you AIDS'.

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lou

@ Tom Welsh

Given the size of the deal between Sky and Premier League, it would seem that withholding rights from the Greeks would be a more popular idea.

Sky just broke the 10M customer barrier, they don't want a mass desertion of subscribers.

Without Sky the Premier League has a very big hole in funding, something that won't be welcomed by either side. With this in mind I'd anticipate the Greek broadcaster being 'leaned on' to ensure only Greek subscribers can receive the service.

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I doubt

there will be a mass desertion. Most people arent interest in watching the match in greek.

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FAIL

Re: I doubt...

Seperate audio feeds - you can choose what commentary you want to listen to on many of the foreign channels.

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