Following provisional findings in May, the UK’s Competition Commission has confirmed that News Corp-controlled Sky does not have a material advantage over its rivals in the first window pay-TV arena. Sky’s position in relation to the acquisition and distribution of movies in that window “does not adversely affect competition,” the org said. Sky has first-window rights to films from all of the Hollywood majors, but the Commission’s Laura Carstensen, who chaired the inquiry, said that is not what’s driving subscribers’ choice of pay-TV provider.
The findings come after UK regulator Ofcom charged the Commission to start a probe into premium pay-TV movie rights back in 2010. After the provisional findings were released in May there was blowback from rival providers including Virgin Media which disputed the Commission’s report. Today’s report coupled with the one in May represent a reversal of the Commission’s original stance in August of last year when it found that Sky’s deals with the Hollywood majors were anti-competitive.
But the org today said more consumers attach importance to services other than premium films. A broad range of content and price are strong factors in customers’ decision to subscribe. It also said the launch of new and improved services from Netflix and Lovefilm has increased competition. Sky also recently launched a service that allows customers to access its content separately from their subscriptions to other pay-TV providers.
Amazon-owned Lovefilm and Netflix, which launched in the UK and Ireland in January, have first window deals in place with other studios including Lionsgate and also work in subsequent windows with many of the majors and minimajors. The Commission said it expects that as the rivals increase their sub numbers, barriers to further first window deals will fall.
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