EU opens antitrust case against 6 major US movie studios

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has launched an antitrust case against six major U.S. movie studios, including Disney and Warner Bros, and British satellite broadcaster Sky UK for restricting access across the 28-country bloc.

In a statement Thursday, the executive Commission, which assesses antitrust matters for the EU, said it has sent a statement of objections to the companies regarding "contractual restrictions" that prevent Sky offering their full services to consumers beyond Britain and Ireland.

The companies mentioned in the statement are NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony and Twentieth Century Fox as well as Disney, Warner Bros. and Sky UK

"European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channels of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU," EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. "Our investigation shows that they cannot do this today."

The Commission opened a probe into the seven companies and their territorial contracts in January 2014 and found clauses requiring Sky UK to block access to films through its online or satellite pay-TV services to consumers outside Britain and Ireland — so-called "geo-blocking."

It also said found that some contracts required studios to prevent their services being made available in the two countries to others than Sky — another potential restrictive practice.

"Licensing agreements between the major film studios and Sky UK do not allow consumers in other EU countries to access Sky's UK and Irish pay-TV services, via satellite or online," Vestager said. "We believe that this may be in breach of EU competition rules."

The firms named now have the right to respond. There is no legal deadline for the Commission to complete antitrust inquiries.