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EU Probes Licensing Pacts Between U.S. Film Studios, Pay TV Firms

posted 13 Jan 2014, 07:53 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 13 Jan 2014, 07:53 ]

The European Commission's antitrust watchdog opens an antitrust probe into licensing agreements between several major U.S. film studios and the largest European pay-TV broadcasters, says it will examine whether licensing provisions prevent broadcasters from providing services across borders.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM  (REUTERS) -  The European Commission said on Monday (January 13) it was opening an antitrust probe into licensing agreements between several major U.S. film studios and the largest European pay-TV broadcasters.

EU's antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia said it will examine whether licensing provisions prevent broadcasters from providing services across borders, for example by refusing potential subscribers from other EU member states or blocking cross-border access to their services.

"The Commission has opened an antitrust investigation concerning the cross-border provision ofpay TV services. More precisely, we want to take a closer look through this investigation at the provisions in the licensing agreements between a number of U.S. studios, audio-visual studios, and EU pay TV broadcasters. As far as broadcasters are concerned, the proceedings involve the largestpay TV operators active in countries which represent the most important European pay TV markets. Namely, BSkyB in the UK, Sky Italia in Italy, Canal Plus in France, Sky Deutschland in Germany, and DTS operating Canal Plus in Spain. The film studios involved are the so-called major U.S. studios, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, SonyNBC Universal and Paramount," he told a news conference in Brussels.

Audio-visual content, such as popular films, is licensed by the U.S. film studios to pay-TVbroadcasters on an exclusive and territorial basis, typically to a single pay-TV broadcaster in each EU member state.

The Commission will look at whether provisions of licensing arrangements for broadcasting by satellite or through online streaming between U.S. film studios and the major European broadcasters, which grant the broadcasters "absolute territorial protection", may infringe EU antitrust rules barring anti-competitive agreements.

If the Commission concludes current licensing arrangements do infringe EU antitrust rules, Almunia said it could have a direct impact on consumers.

"This means that, a citizen that lives in an EU member state can conclude a contract for a pay TVservice to watch films or other audio-visual content regardless of where this particular service is established. A Belgian could to this in London, a Spaniard could do so in Berlin, a Frenchman could do so in Madrid. It also means that once you have concluded a contract for this service, if you want to watch a film or audio-visual content, through a pay-per-view formula, you may travel to another member state and still have access to the service that you have concluded in another country," Almunia said.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct.


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