Zenith CC&P Current Awareness

​European Commission probe into cross-border access to pay-TV

15 January 2018

Prof. Suzanne Rab

The European Commission has extended its competition investigation into cross-border pay-TV services to a subsidiary of NBCUniversal.

The 12 January 2018 update is the latest development in an investigation where the Commission opened formal proceedings in January 2014 in relation to licensing agreements between some of the major US film studios and the biggest European pay-TV broadcasters (including Sky UK, Canal Plus of France, Sky Italia, Sky Deutschland and DTS).

The Commission is concerned that the agreements may be restricting broadcasters from providing cross-border services such as by preventing subscribers from other member states from accessing the services.

In July 2015, the Commission sent a statement of objections to Sky UK and six US studios (Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros).  Although the Commission has sent a supplementary statement of objections to a subsidiary of NBCUniversal to reflect changes in its corporate structure, the substantive scope of the Commission’s investigation remains unchanged.

The Commission has closed the proceedings opened in January 2014 against Paramount Pictures and accepted binding commitments from Paramount in relation to allegations in the 2015 statement of objections. That decision is subject to appeal (Case T-873/16 - Groupe Canal + v European Commission (OJ 2017 C38/50)).

Cases on the interaction between territorial exclusivity and competition law raise policy issues that are not new, but which have not been addressed head-on or in a co-ordinated way by the Commission.

TV has traditionally been organised on national lines but set against the EU vision of a single market.  Case law has developed in piecemeal fashion.

Rights-holders and satellite broadcasters will need to adapt to the inability to strictly enforce territorial divisions, against a background of uncertainty while important cases remain to be decided. This has a knock-on impact on the commercial value of rights. The implications are not confined to pay-TV, with potential ramifications across the audio-visual sector where packaged rights are sold (sports, film, tv, music).

Current Awareness

By the CC&P team