EU probes licensing pacts between U.S. film studios, pay TV firms

by Reuters
Monday, 13 January 2014 11:02 GMT

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

The Commission, the EU's antitrust watchdog, 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 EU is focusing on agreements between studios including Twenty-First Century Fox, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal and Paramount Pictures and European pay-TV broadcasters such as Britain's BSkyB , France's Canal Plus, Germany's Sky Deutschland , Sky Italia of Italy and DTS of Spain.

Audiovisual content, such as popular films, is licensed by the U.S. film studios to pay-TV broadcasters 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.

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

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