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Hollywood studios targeted in EU probe

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European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.

The European Union’s anti-trust regulator has filed complaints against six major Hollywood studios and Britain’s Sky TV pay channel for allegedly using movie licenses to block access to their content in the bloc’s 28 nations.

“We believe that this may be in breach of EU competition rules,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement on Thursday.

The EU body has sent statement of objections (SO) to Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros, all based in the US, as well as to Sky pay TV networks in Britain and Ireland.

“European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channels of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU. Our EU economy Internet antitrust investigation shows that they cannot do this today,” said the statement.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has vowed to break the current restrictions which deprive citizens across the European bloc of using the services of the digital media beyond national lines.

The EU statement said the US companies and the Sky UK “have bilaterally agreed to put in place contractual restrictions that prevent Sky UK from allowing EU consumers located elsewhere to access pay-TV services available in the UK and Ireland.”

Within the current framework, subscribers to the Sky TV effectively become deprived of accessing the channel’s offerings of films and TV series if they move outside Britain and Ireland.

The regulator said investigations are also underway about other major TV channels across Europe, including Canal Plus of France, Italy’s Sky Italia, Germany’s Sky Deutschland and DTS of Spain.

Sending SOs to the US companies means an escalation in the EU probe which began in 2011 after a top European court ruled that English Premier League’s geographic restrictions on viewers’ access to soccer matches was in violation of the EU’s competition law.


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