back to article Give ALL the EU access to Netflix, says Vince Cable

Seemingly frustrated at not being able to stream films in his Belgian hotel room, Business Secretary Vince Cable is calling for an "online single market" to address the weighty issue of making UK Netflix content accessible across the EU. Without unfair discrimination all online streaming services such as Netflix should be …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boost GDP by £260bn?

    That's an awful lot of p0rn.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Boost GDP by £260bn?

      It's ok, they can claim it on expenses...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        Re: Boost GDP by £260bn?

        Ooo thumbs down, Jacqui Smith a reg commentard as well now?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Boost GDP by £260bn?

          I would also like to point out that Netflix was launched in Belgium last September so I'm at a loss to understand why he couldn't access it.

          I do however agree with his main point that such things should be the same across the whole of the EU/

          1. David Beck

            Re: Boost GDP by £260bn?

            Why would having a UK Netflix account help you in Brussels? You will only have access to the Belgian library, in French and Flemish. What happened to the Common Market? A lawyer heard about it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Boost GDP by £260bn?

              I don't know if you're being intentionally thick but just in case it's accidental ignorance... you can watch Netflix in English when you're abroad!!! Even in Belgium with a Belgian account you can watch the films in English.

  2. Timmay

    Cable and streaming

    I love the fact that it's Cable talking about the merits of streaming TV. I thought Virgin and the like hated Netflix.

    1. Big_Ted

      Re: Cable and streaming

      @ Timmay

      Hardly as Virgin offer Netflix as an extra on their service that doesn't impact on your broadband at all.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Cable and streaming

        @Big_Ted: I think Timmay is trying to make a pun.

        Vince Cable v. Virgin Cable

        ;)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Cable and streaming

          "Vince Cable v. Virgin Cable"

          FIGHT!!!!

          1. Tom 13

            Re: FIGHT!!!!

            Lime Jello or vegetable oil?

  3. MatthewSt

    iPlayer

    Shouldn't he be starting at home first? What's his opinion of the single market as far as BBC streaming content is concerned? Or Channel4? Or have the government decided that the best way for us to compete in the worldwide economy is to bully... sorry legislate foreign companies?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: iPlayer

      They should be able to stream it, so long as it's paid for by the consumer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: iPlayer

        I know a good few expats who would gladly pay a small monthly fee for unlimited iPlayer TV and Radio.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: iPlayer

          "I know a good few expats who would gladly pay a small monthly fee for unlimited iPlayer TV and Radio."

          So introduce them to a UK based VPN, they can fill their boots.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: iPlayer

            I'm not going to faff around with a VPN, just so I can get a bit of BBC. Give me "legal" access to it for a couple of quid and I'll be happy.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: iPlayer

              "I'm not going to faff around with a VPN, just so I can get a bit of BBC. Give me "legal" access to it for a couple of quid and I'll be happy."

              Yeah, that ain't gonna happen any time soon. It's a licensing problem, particularly for things like music. The BBC has carte blanche to use any music it wants for its programmes, with a compulsory licence on artists. Move outside broadcast signals in the UK and they have no such rights. It's why there is a Top Gear UK, not available to buy, and a Top Gear everywhere else, for example: they have no rights to the music they use. Clearly the BBC would love to sell Top Gear on DVD, but the licensing restrictions mean they cannot.

              1. rcp27

                Re: iPlayer

                As an expat who would like the iPlayer, I feel it worth pointing out that my local cable TV provider carries pretty much the full set of BBC, ITV and Channel 4 TV channels, as broadcast in Blighty. If I can pay a modest monthly subscription fee to get the TV channels to my home on cable, how come I can't do the same thing to get them off the iPlayer?

              2. Mike VandeVelde
                Holmes

                Re: iPlayer

                "It's a licensing problem, blah blah blah"

                Isn't that just the sort of handicap that a common market would try to cure?

                1. DavCrav Silver badge

                  Re: iPlayer

                  "Isn't that just the sort of handicap that a common market would try to cure?"

                  Yes in theory. What would have to happen though is that the BBC couldn't possibly be given worldwide rights to do whatever it wanted though, so the BBC would in fact lose its forced licence and have to buy all its rights the same as everyone else. That might be considered good or not, depending on where you stand, but either BBC programmes would be worse or the licence fee would go up.

                  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

                    Re: "either BBC programmes would be worse or the licence fee would go up"

                    Lets not kid ourselves, eh ?

                    The license fees would go up and the programmes would get worse.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: "either BBC programmes would be worse or the licence fee would go up"

                      but at least the Deputy Head (Acting) of Procurement (Stationary Retention; Paperclips Section) would get to keep his job ...

          2. jonathanb Silver badge

            Re: iPlayer

            But they could sell a subscription for maybe £145.50 per year and make quite a bit of money out of it.

        2. streaky Silver badge

          Re: iPlayer

          I know a few born/bred/current brits who don't watch TV and therefore don't have a TV license who would gladly do same for access to the content they want to watch and not paying for drivel like EastEnders and strictly. I'm one of them.

          1. KroSha

            Re: iPlayer @ streaky

            You do not need a TV License if you do not watch live broadcast TV in the UK. You are being perfectly legal if you watch iPlayer on a laptop / tablet / phone over mobile broadband.

            I don't have a TV (or License) for exactly this reason.

  4. Uberseehandel
    Holmes

    the simple answer obviously hasn't occurred to this politician

    Uncle Vince needs to have a chat with some of the IT gnomes at his day job, so he can feed his Breaking Bad habit anywhere in the world

  5. scrubber
    Black Helicopters

    Sounds suspiciously sensible...

    Where's the catch?

    Got it - roaming mobile data charges.

  6. ukgnome Silver badge

    he doesn't get it does he?

  7. wikkity

    he tell delegates he will tell delegates

    I've heard of EU and government inefficiencies and requiring things in duplicate/triplicate but surely this is taking things a bit too far?

  8. JimmyPage Silver badge

    What's that sound ... a penny dropping ?

    The main - almost exclusive drive to piracy is not people wanting stuff for free. It's people wanting stuff that is being artificially siloed away from them.

    I'd pay £10, £15 a month if it was to a single gateway, and I could watch the content I knew was available.

    Currently it's TV licence, £70/months to Virgin (and that's being reviewed), plus Amazon instants, plus netflix, etc etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's that sound ... a penny dropping ?

      I know somebody who pays for a full sky subscription, but prefers to download because there are no adverts and there's no waiting for foreign releases ( admittedly improved recently with some programmes simulcasting ). The UX for the-media-centre-formally-know-as-XBMC is so much better than Sky for the box-set type use-case too.

      They tried Netflix, would be happy to pay for it too, but it doesn't have enough content.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's that sound ... a penny dropping ?

        Almost all of what I download I could have accessed for "free" as a combination of my various packages. Except I prefer no adverts, and (looking at you iPlayer) I prefer it to watch when *I* want to (no "try again later) and also I prefer to watch it all the way through in one go. Not have it stall, buffer, and then tell me (you guessed it !) to "try again later".

        Is it a Virgin issue ? A BBC one ? Who knows ? certainly not - wait for it - Virgin and the BBC.

        So unless I explicitly set my TiVo to record it (because I don't trust iPlayer - go figure), it's hello NZBs here I come. On my Virgin broadband. Which rocks - seriously !

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: What's that sound ... a penny dropping ?

          "So unless I explicitly set my TiVo to record it (because I don't trust iPlayer - go figure), it's hello NZBs here I come. On my Virgin broadband. Which rocks - seriously !"

          I do find it slightly odd that watching a stream from iPlayer in real time can buffer, stutter and even stop completely and yet I can use Get_iplayer to "stream" it straight to a file on the hard disk way, way faster with no pauses in the download. And yes, VM BB rocks!

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. hatti

    Lobbyist for hire

    Seemingly Uncle Vince would like to trouser another brown envelope from Netflix rather like he did from the notoriously undervalued sale of the Post Office.

  10. big_D Silver badge

    Confused

    The EU has been arguing for this for a while now - and as an ex-pat, I would love to be able to get original soundtrack movies on Amazon Prime, for example - yet the UK has been against further integration and discussing pulling out of the EU... Maybe the UK politicians should make up their minds.

  11. That Steve Guy

    how about all content globally?

    I'm tired of UK netflix having so much less than USA. Surely streaming should give everyone the same stuff.

    1. Valerion

      Re: how about all content globally?

      I'm tired of UK netflix having so much less than USA. Surely streaming should give everyone the same stuff.

      You know that. I know that. The entire general public knows that. The studios, for some reason, don't.

      Give everyone in the world access to the same content for a reasonable fee and piracy will pretty much disappear.

      For example - my wife and I have long enjoyed The Amazing Race (you may keep your opinions on that to yourself). But there is NO way to watch it legally in the UK. No channel carries it and their online service won't allow anyone from outside the US to watch it. The ONLY option I have is to download it. I am happy to pay. I am willing to pay. But nobody will take my money.

      In the meantime the Netflix problem is solved with Hola, or with Unblock-US which works on any device.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: That Steve Guy Re: how about all content globally?

      "I'm tired of UK netflix having so much less than USA....." Certain services are tied to location licenses, some will not work if the software detects that you are not where your license says you are entitled to be. But, if you are willing to pay for an US Netflix subscription, it then becomes a matter of fooling your system into thinking it is in the US. Now, I'm not encouraging any illegal/piracy activity (CYA statement), but a friend bought a Roku in the States last year and was annoyed in didn't work in the UK as well as it did in the US. He found he could fool the Roku with a paid-for DNS service called Unlocator (http://vpnfreedom.com/roku/how-to-use-the-roku-box-outside-the-us/), and he told me he now enjoys full US Netflix streaming wherever he can get the bandwidth. He makes sure he doesn't use the service for anything other than streaming (no work material, email or other coms).

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: That Steve Guy how about all content globally?

        So... which clause, precisely, of which copyright act in which country, gives the rights-holder the right to restrict where their content can be accessed?

        I can tell you the answer to that, at least as it applies in US, British, EU and Canadian law: there is no such right. It's been basically engineered into the law by DRM.

        Copyright gives you the right to limit copying, distribution, performance and display of, and derivation from, your work. Nothing was ever intended to give you the right to say "this book can only be read if you're in Australia", or "this music can only be listened to on Sony headphones". Those are extensions to copyright, which take away rights from consumers, and we shouldn't stand for it.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: we shouldn't stand for it

          We're not standing for it.

          We're all slouched on the sofa in front of the telly.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Single Market

    my view fwiw: if you pay a monthly fee for access to content, you get access to that content in that month. If it's sold as online access to content, it needs to be online access to content - if you have Internet access, you get the content, or you get the money back for the period when you couldn't access it for any non-technical reason - got to allow for ISP screw-ups or the occasional "JCB vs fibre" contest, etc.

  13. Colin of Rame
    Childcatcher

    Vince was probably shafted by Mandelson's 'relationship' with Ms Murdoch when he was trade commisioner. Sky Tv did not want EU single market so mandy obliged

  14. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Politicians

    Cable's idea might be a good one. But it sounds suspiciously like one of those grand announcements that politicians make quite often, because they sound good, irrespective of whether or not they are any good or practical, useful or even needed.

    1. Avatar of They Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Politicians

      Yeah not like he is up for election soon... Or anything.... Or aware his party is fubar'd or anything.... Or trying to find another job POST MP. (Like on the board of Netflix)

      I mean that would be lunacy to speculate...

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Politicians

      It's eminently practical and easily achieved using existing laws.

      Try telling the Germans that you can only use French cars in France and see how far you get with the Eu commision.

      If you want to use the single market to pay corporation tax in Ireland, VAT in Luxemburg and not have to apply for a business visa to visit each customer then you also don't get to discriminate by country

  15. BobBob
    Thumb Up

    About time!

    As an ex-pat living in Germany, I can't buy all the available UK music online from Google Play Music and iTunes. If I were to buy it from iTunes UK in Germany, it would be illegal. Likewise music from German bands I like can't be bought by friends in the UK, unless they went to the German store.

    Amazon blocks you trying to buy MP3s in the UK store for music I can't even get here. I have an Amazon Prime subscription enabling me to watch lots of movies and series in German. A handful of "OV" (original version) films are available in English. Glad I learned German. The last series of "Not Going Out"? No chance.

    Changes to the legislation is, in my opinion, way overdue. I should be able to make use of my Amazon Prime subscription when I'm elsewhere in the EU on holiday, but I can't legally do this. Well, I can download them to my Kindle Fire and turn off the Internet connection, but that's not the point. It needs planning in advance.

  16. Laurent Cargill

    TV Rights

    To be fair, the issue is related to TV rights being sold to local broadcasters. Comedy Central UK has paid for the rights to exclusively broadcast Friends in the UK, this is why it's not available on Netflix in the UK. It's a difficult issue to resolve without tearing down the basis of all TV broadcasting rights sales.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: TV Rights

      "Comedy Central UK has paid for the rights to exclusively broadcast Friends in the UK, this is why it's not available on Netflix in the UK."

      I wonder how the contract is actually worded? Netflix not being a broadcaster and all that. No doubt the lawyers have it all sewn up. Yet you can still buy or rent the Friends DVDs, which is not all that different to storing your copy on a Netflix server to watch when and where you want to. Oh, the fun we could have in a court! ;-)

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: TV Rights

      There's also the issue of 'FTA' v. 'FTV' that impacts satellite broadcasters. If I'm a UK channel and I want to broadcast the latest blockbuster I don't want to have to pay for the rights to broadcast it EU-wide. Unfortunately if my channel is being broadcast from Eutelsat 28A that's exactly what I'm going to be doing. An unencrypted channel is 'FTA' (Free To Air) and from that satellite anyone of over 300 million people can watch my output. The only workaround if I'm using this satellite would be to encrypt the channel and require viewers to have an appropriate decoding card. If I don't charge more than a handling fee for the card it becomes 'FTV' (Free to View). I can satisfy the rights holders by ensuring that the cards can only be sent to UK addresses.

      The better solution would be to broadcast from a transponder that, nominally at least, only covered the UK and Ireland. Unfortunately until recently the only satellite that could do this (Astra 2A) was pretty much full. The refusal to support encryption is why Freesat doesn't carry all the free channels that Sky does. It was also the cause of the delay in getting 5 HD to air. In the end they reached an agreement with someone else (the BBC I think) to sublet space on Astra 2A.

      Hopefully now that there's a new bird up there some channels might migrate over but it depends how long their current contracts run although (for better or for worse) it seems like 5 are not interested in going FTA at the moment. They may have an arrangement with Sky which is more lucrative.

      One issue around regional rights that might be relevant here is translation. Anything that has to be translated needs to either wait for all translations to be complete or else chances are it'll have been seen by everyone before the translation is complete which lowers the value/revenue from translation.

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: TV Rights

        "The better solution would be to broadcast from a transponder that, nominally at least, only covered the UK and Ireland"

        Yes, and it'd be even better if not for the fact that the UK and Ireland are not the same country. This leads to the situation where Irish TV-licence payers are unable to watch their own channels on Astra without paying Sky a subscription.

        The alternative, of Free-To-Air broadcast on Astra 2A, would have the effect of increasing the Irish broadcasters' reach by a factor of 16 (from 4 million to around 64 million viewers). Sounds good? Well, no, not for a public broadcaster it isn't - the cost of live events and other bought-in programming would now also go up to account for the larger addressable viewership. It wouldn't matter that 90% of that market have no interest in watching: in TV, you pay for how many people can view something, not how many actually do.

        (Yes, there is a free satellite system in Ireland, but it uses Ka-band, so is incompatible with the Astra Ku-band receivers that most people own, and is only intended as infill for areas that cannot receive DVB-T signals.)

        But broadcasting is one part of the media market where it's harder to make a clear-cut case for a single, flat market; there are valid societal reasons to not force broadcasters in small countries to play at the same scale as their larger neighbours.

        However, when it comes to direct sale of digital media to customers (Amazon, iTunes, Qobuz, etc) it shouldn't be so difficult to fathom: the EU Single Market rules mean that a publisher cannot stop me buying a book from Germany/Hungary/Slovenia/wherever. But if I try to purchase an eBook of the same text, from the same EU seller, I can't. Because now, suddenly, it's not a good anymore, and they don't have a right to sell me it. ?? But... if there's something that's only available on eBook, that they cannot sell me, I can ask them to print it out, and then ship me the hard copy, and now suddenly they're allowed to do it again. That is madness.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: TV Rights

          Yeah, I don't know why I even mentioned Ireland. Maybe I meant to type 'Northern Ireland' (but that's probably an insult so let's assume not). Anyway it gave you a good reason to explain an even more stupid situation so that's good :)

  17. Graham Triggs

    Or how about tying content to the account region, rather than the access region, and give people at least a reasonable amount of grace for accessing outside of their home region. (e.g. 30 days since last access from home region)?

    More importantly, it should be enshrined in consumer law that if we can't access the services that we are paying for through an arbitrary restriction, then the service provider MUST give a way of "pausing" that subscription, rather than happily taking our money and not allowing us to use it.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "Or how about tying content to the account region, rather than the access region, and give people at least a reasonable amount of grace for accessing outside of their home region. (e.g. 30 days since last access from home region)?"

      Noooooo! Then I wouldn't be able to VPN into Netflix US, which I clearly don't as it's against the T&Cs.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting ....

    how media content companies have suddenly become telecom providers (Sky, Virgin, even BT).

    Kinds of "heads they win, tails we lose" sort of thing.

  19. Barry Carnell

    Err...

    This is (as mentioned above) all about media rights and how they are sold.

    I spent some time working (in IT) for a TV rights company and I was a little shocked at how backward the issue of rights is....for instance hard media (such as DVD/Blu Ray) are sold separately to broadcast, but most rights in the early online days were sold with such wolly, open ended broad spectrum rights on long term deals and this has continued to be the case as it is the "status quo" so to speak....and almost all of these included localised deals for "online" :(

    So rights for one particular program may be sold to a UK TV company with DVD, rebroadcast and in HD, but not SD...and to a French broadcast company with delayed cast, Blu Ray but not HD or DVD. It is frankly a total mess and there is a whole distribution market/workforce built up around this model that would resist any change for job preservation reasons.

    Surely at some point the industry needs to accept that "online" is "online" and does not specify any legal or geographical domain. Global releases of media for film, TV, music and already to some point these days video games needs to happen as the glass walls of licensing are being smashed by pirating content that would otherwise be purchased legally.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only

    had a gift card I could use for ebooks (not Amazon) and went to the site and had a look at Xmas deals Etc. picked 8 titles used a discount code on 2 of them then went to pay. Turns out I was in the US site and on logging into account it flipped over to Canadian site, suddenly price was $20 more and that was for 6 books 2 of them having disappeared. Total mess.

  21. fearnothing

    I work in Belgium. Prior to September, I needed to use a VPN. Now I can use Netflix without VPN but the content is different (somewhat more limited but there are a few things Belgium seems to have that the UK doesn't). Amazon Prime Video still requires a VPN.

  22. YARR

    Fair point Vince, but it begs the question: what have all those well paid political types in the EU been doing for the last 40-odd years since they've had a democratic mandate to create a common market? Maybe we need to apply market forces to the people who implement these changes, to empower someone who will actually get on with the job?

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