Geo-blocking of Audio-visual Services in the EU: Gone with the Wind?

January 2019

CPI EU News Column edited by Thibault Schrepel, Sam Sadden & Jan Roth (CPI) presents:

Geo-blocking of Audio-visual Services in the EU: Gone with the Wind? By Simonetta Vezzoso (Università degli Studi di Trento)1

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has earned a solid reputation as a “Big Tech regulator” for holding Silicon Valley to account in a series of illegal State aid and abuse of dominance proceedings. A further, equally iconic West Coast industry is also on the EU Commissioner’s radar. In 2015, the competition enforcer sent a statement of objections to the then six major Hollywood studios (20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony, and Paramount) and the broadcaster Sky UK on the cross-border provision of Pay-TV services.2 Traditionally, film copyright holders license contents often on a country-by-country basis. According to the Commission’s preliminary assessment, the bilateral contractual agreements between the studios and the broadcaster were in breach of Article 101 TFEU prohibiting anti-competitive agreements. The crux of the matter was the geo-blocking provisions contained in the licensing agreements between Sky UK and each of the six studios,3 due to which Sky UK enjoyed absolute territorial exclusivity. The result, according to the Commission, was the elimination of cross-border competition between Pay-TV broadcasters and the artificial partition of the internal market along national borders.



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