Volume: 12 Issue: 1
An investigation by the European Commission (EC) into cross-border access to pay-TV services could affect how the FA Premier League restricts access to content broadcast online. On 13 January, the EC opened antitrust proceedings to examine whether agreements between EU broadcasters and US film studios infringe Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
‘The Commission will examine whether provisions of licensing arrangements for broadcasting by satellite or through online streaming between US film studios and the major European broadcasters, which grant to the latter "absolute territorial protection", may constitute an infringement of EU antitrust rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreements,’ reads a 13 November EC release.
“The Murphy ruling of 2012 applied only to decoder cards for personal use”, said Daniel Geey, a Senior Associate with Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP. “Currently, a UK Sky Sports subscriber cannot access his SkyGo internet service as it will be ‘geo-blocked’. As the Commission appears to be investigating into the area of geo-blocking regarding Hollywood films, rights holders like the Premier League may potentially have a new battle on their hands if the Commission views that such geo-blocking provisions restrict competition or the free movement of services in the EU."
On 30 January, the Premier League announced it had successfully prosecuted a Swansea landlord for use of a foreign decoder card. It is understood that if the Commission rules that geo-blocking is illegal, pubs could try to defend use of geo-blocking avoidance software to screen online Premier League coverage.