back to article EU pulls out antitrust probe, prods Euro pay-TV contracts

The EU is launching an anti-competition probe of major Hollywood studios and Europe's biggest pay-TV networks over their exclusive licensing deals. The European Commission's antitrust division said it was looking into the territorially exclusive contracts to see if they stopped broadcasters from being able to offer their …

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Anonymous Coward

What "restrictions"?

These are only in the contracts between the producers and the broadcasters.

As was proved recently in the Pub Landlady UK court case, these territorial restrictions are not enforcable upon the end consumers of the broadcasts.

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Re: What "restrictions"?

From what i can make out.

It was a Win / Lose case.

She won the right to show the match, but not the right to show the overlay graphics or previous highlight clips.

It was a complex case and as far as I'm aware is still not fully resolved.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17150054

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Unhappy

Re: What "restrictions"?

these territorial restrictions are not enforcable upon the end consumers of the broadcasts.

Not directly, perhaps, but in practice that's irrelevant. If Sky's contract with, say, Warner Bros, says that they won't sell subscriptions outside the UK, and if Sky decides that they will start selling such subscriptions, either from choice of because the EU requires them to do so, there's nothing to stop Warner Bros declining to sell Sky their progammes, or putting up the price 10x to cover the extra audience.

The EU can protest all it likes, but unless both parties to the contract are in the EU they can do sweet FA about it.

It would be nice if such supplier/broadcaster contracts were based on subscriber numbers, irrespective of location, but then you run into "premiere" issues: Broadcasters sometimes pay an extra fee to get "first showing" rights, and the suppliers like to sell those rights per country. If they can only sell them once, on an EU, basis, they'll make less money out of them, and so they'll look to get it back somehow.

As usual, EU atempts to create an unnecessarily-level playing field could simply increase the costs for everyone, for the benefit of the relatively few people who would really gain. But that won't matter, because it will be best for this imaginary social entity called "Europe".

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Re: What "restrictions"?

It shoud be all quite a simple matter.

On the one hand we have a grasping, greedy, evil bastard who went west with his empire in the manner of Going to Texas for much the same reasons was the ticket 150 years ago.

And on the other we have a decent British girl who was trying to run a decent business in hard times when eight and an half thousand pounds finances piracy as it says on all the DVDs.

Now, so long as she can afford to sign up in Germany or Greece or wherever, she is allowed to show her television to all comers for what it obviously costs to make a profit for everybody except the puddings we call superstars that can't put a little hollow sphere in a big wide net once in an international or so.

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Tight beam

> if I live in Belgium and want to subscribe to a Spanish Pay TV service,

Which is the exact situation that british ex-pats find themselves in (though not to watch spanish TV - if you've ever seen it, you'll know why). At present a lot of them have honkin' great satellite dishes parked near their houses just to pull in Sky or the Beeb - though this is contrary to the providers terms of service.

Sky's "solution" to this is to configure their newest satellite to only broadcast their UK service to a more tightly focused region, with less "overspill" into other countries where naughty brits won't get a strong enough signal. Even if the european skies are opened up, tbroadcasters will be under no obligation to actually broadcast into other european countries. Thus any finding by the EU will be irrelevant.

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Re: Tight beam

Sky's "solution" to this is to configure their newest satellite to only broadcast their UK service to a more tightly focused region,

1. Sky doesn't have any satellites, it rents broadcast capacity from SES/Astra.

2. Sky doesn't use the tighbeam transponders for their encrypted transmissions, it is the BBC/ITV companies with the free-to-air broadcasts who do so.

Sky restricts coverage purely by where it sells subscriptions, it is the public broadcasters who chose to limit coverage to the UK only, and there is nothing in EU law which could make them do otherwise.

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Ooh, this'll be one to watch. Could be good for the footy fans if you could get a web subscription to a sports service abroad without all the obstructions now BT and Sky have split the matches.

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Footy fans

I read that as "booty fans" and it seemed to make some sort of sense too, for a while.

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Where the BBC is concerned does this mean they'll be forced to spend more on the bureaucracy of making sure that only British citizens can use the likes of iplayer when used elsewhere within the EU? The BBC is a pay TV service after all - the only real difference between it and other providers is the lack of choice when it comes to whether we want to pay.

Presumably some form of account associated with a household would be needed but it would still result in more work for the BBC and less money to spend on our own programs.

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Wouldn't be that much hassle, just adapt the TV licence to come with an iPlayer login and allow that to work abroad (which some people have been - rightly - screaming for for years.) Given the Beeb have a budget of around £3Bn I think they could manage it; One less character on Eastenders would probably pay for it.

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Anonymous Coward

VPNs

I currently pay a VPN a few quid a month to watch iPlayer and get my fix of Moffat dramas and cooking competitions illicitily from abroad.

The thing is, I'd rather give that directly to the BBC and get a username and password so that the money gets somewhat nearer the content creators. Heck, they've even set up the commercial company BBC Worldwide just so that they can make some non-licence fee income.

Hopefully this EC will mean we can do that in the future and I don't have to deal with that "buffering" animation spoiling Dr Who due to my crappy VPN.

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Areo vs NBC/ABC

Isn't this the same issue as the US supreme court are addressing in their Aereo vs NBC/ABC case?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/13/supreme_court_agrees_to_hear_aereo_case_toot_suite/

Basically, can you receive a broadcast and retransmit it over a wire to a specific user?

If that's allowable in the EU (which it is) then the whole thing can be circumvented by a European version of Aereo.

You simply pay your TV bill in Greece and pay Areo for a feed from it.

I see a business opportunity in Spain :-)

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A pattern?

"...and telly firms like BSkyB in the UK, Sky Italia, Canal+ in France and Sky Deutschland"

Do I detect a pattern here?

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A Little Time Off.

"Competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement that the EU wasn't trying to make US film studios sell rights for the whole continent, but it still needed to ensure that customers weren't being unfairly treated."

I guess that Almunia has taken some time off from his discussions with Eric Schmidt and the pay-off he's going to get from Google for settling all pending actions on the terms that Schmidt dictates.

It's like a little vacation for him. So that's nice.

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Mushroom

Why not?

"...EU wasn't trying to make US film studios sell rights for the whole continent, but it still needed to ensure that customers weren't being unfairly treated."

Okay so when they are done addressing pay-tv can they kindly turn their attention to the other Copyright 'scams' going on vis-a-vis regional pricing and selective unavailability of digital content in different EU states along with the wholesale ban on inter-EU trading for these services.

"I want to be clear on one point: we are not calling into question the possibility to grant licences on a territorial basis, or trying to oblige studios to sell rights on a pan-European basis," he said.

And why the bloody hell not? Is the EU a single market for all or only a single market when it suits companies a tax^W bill^W profit margin.

You have Lovefilm which is not available to non-UK residents. Google Play only making devices and the content stores selectively available to specific EU states. To say nothing of things like car insurance.

And were there not discussions on scrapping inter-EU mobile roaming?

They sure can pick and choose can't they. All this piping from the EU will mean nothing until they grow a fucking pair and sort out these companies, some competition would only be a good thing.

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Unhappy

Now watch the US of A introduce a new mini-agreement ...

that negates the Euro law and then it will arm-twist nations into accepting it.

It's the American way.

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Re: Now watch the US of A introduce a new mini-agreement ...

Yes. I was thinking they might like to extend this region locking thing to the USA so only certain states can get certain movie premiers on certain dates, some states not get them at all and pricing varying hugely depending on which state one lives in. I bet that would go down well.

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Re: only certain states can get certain movie premiers

Not legal here. That's restraint of interstate trade which was prohibited even when we were a loose federal government as opposed to the tight one we are now.

This would be one of the places where I will side with the freetards: the labor market is international and workers can't escape it no matter how much they may wish to. The sales market should be the same. If you can make a profit selling it in China for 20,000 renminbi, you should be able to buy it in the US for about 3,300 dollars or 2,400 Euros, not 20,000 in each region with bonus profit for currency conversion rates.

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