Paramount Settles EU Pay-TV Antitrust Case

     (CN) — Paramount Pictures agreed to drop restrictive licensing agreements with pay-TV broadcasters in Europe to get out of an antitrust investigation by the European Commission, the commission said Tuesday.
     In 2015, the commission formally charged the six biggest U.S. movie studios — Paramount, Disney, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Sony and NBCUniversal — with forcing British broadcaster Sky to block EU viewers outside Great Britain and Ireland from accessing pay-per-view content through restrictive licensing agreements.
     Without the agreements, Sky would be free to sell its pay-TV service to customers across the continent — where allowed by national copyright law and regulations, the commission said.
     But the regulator said the restrictions also benefit Sky, since it gives the network “absolute territorial exclusivity” to broadcast the studios’ films in the U.K. and limits cross-border competition.
     Earlier this year, Paramount offered concessions to settle its case with the commission, including a promise to not enforce current licensing restriction clauses or prohibit broadcasters from selling pay-per-view services anywhere in the European Economic Area.
     Furthermore, Paramount agreed to keep such restrictions out of future film licensing for the next five years, the commission said. The concessions include both online and satellite broadcasting services.
     If the commission had found that the studio violated EU antitrust laws through the restrictive agreements, Paramount faced a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual revenue — nearly $3 billion in 2015 alone.
     The other studios have not yet responded to the commission’s investigation.
     The commission’s investigation is tied to the EU’s broader effort to break down digital borders across the continent.
     In 2015, the commission laid down its blueprint for a single digital market for the EU in a bid to dump the patchwork of 28 different member-state laws that currently govern the continent’s technology sector. The plan would also reform EU copyright law to do away with cross-border licensing restrictions that block would-be viewers from accessing content online from a provider outside their member state.

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