Landmark Deal Ends EU’s Sky Antitrust Case Against Hollywood Studios, Opening Up European Pay-TV Marketplace

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The European Union has accepted promises from Sky and Hollywood major studios not to engage in “geoblocking” of their content, ending a years-long antitrust case without fines or punitive action.

The landmark outcome will open national pay-TV markets that had long existed in their own silos, allowing consumers across the EU access to a wider range of content regardless of their location. Sky, long a marquee investment for Fox architect Rupert Murdoch, changed hands to Comcast last year in a $40 billion deal.

Disney, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros. and Sony, four of the remaining targets of the EU action (with the initially named Paramount and Fox agreeing to earlier provisions), would all face fines in the future if they go back on their pledges, the EU said. For now, the governmental body affirmed in a statement, “These commitments address the Commission’s concerns.”

Under the agreement, the studios will now allow EU customers outside Britain and Ireland to subscribe to Sky UK’s pay-TV services. In future license deals with companies in the European Economic Area, they agreed not to carve out countries or regions, which would violate competition rules. The EEA consists of the 28 EU nations plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

The EU originally initiated the antitrust case in 2014, bringing formal action the following year and arguing that customers across Europe should have access to Sky’s services in the UK and Ireland. As digital services become more popular and sophisticated, regulators are increasingly interested in creating a single market rather than a collection of more than two dozen.

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