The EU has filed antitrust charges against Sky UK and six major US film studios, accusing the companies of unfairly restricting customers' access to content within the European Union. "European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channels of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU," said competition chief Margrethe Vestager in a press statement. "Our investigation shows that they cannot do this today [because of licensing agreements]. We believe that this may be in breach of EU competition rules."
The studios named in the EU Commission's Statement of Objections are Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Bros. The Commission says that when Sky UK, a British pay-TV company, licenses films from these studios, it's required to geo-block access to this content outside of Ireland and the UK, restricting European citizens' access. Clauses within some of these agreements also stop other broadcasters licensing the same content in the same countries, further stifling competition, according to the EU.
The EU wants to make digital content accessible across European borders
"The Commission's preliminary conclusion is that [these] clauses would constitute a serious violation of EU rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreement," said the EU in a press release. This Statement of Objections is the first step in a full antitrust suit, but will require a response from the companies named before it continues. The Commission also said it was investigating similar charges against other major European broadcasters including Canal Plus of France, Sky Italia of Italy, and Sky Deutschland of Germany.
The antitrust charges themselves are part of the EU's wider Digital Single Market strategy, which seeks to boost Europe's digital economy by making it easier for companies to operate across borders. In the case of digital content like movies and music, this means making sure customers can access the services they pay for regardless of licensing agreements within specific countries. "The studios and Sky UK now have the chance to respond to our concerns," said Vestager.