Territorial restrictions placed on TV anywhere apps adds another dimension to the UK pub test case with regards to the single EU market for digital services
The week-end edition of the Financial Times (23 Nov 2013), lead with “Brussels on attack over pay-TV rights”, reporting on the anti-trust probe by European commission over pay –TV rights. This was prompted by the case of the British publican fined for showing football to UK customers using a satellite card from Greece.
The UK pub test case is only the tip of the iceberg in the challenge rights holders and the digital media industry face. TV anywhere apps such as “Virgin TV Anywhere” or “Sky Go” give consumers the ability to watch the subscribed channels away from home over the internet. However, a British pay-TV subscriber on holiday in Spain wanting to watch a Premier League football match on his iPad would find the viewing blocked because access is only allowed from within the UK. In the physical world this is akin to a British holidaymaker being blocked from reading a book on the beach in Spain, with the excuse that the book was bought London.
I am sure that pay-TV operators would like to grant their customers access from anywhere within the EU because this would add value to their service. The problem lies with the country based approach to TV rights. The 2011 judgement with regards to the Premier League may not have considered the issue because at that time TV-anywhere apps did not yet exist. The EU is keen to promote the “connected continent” and should take vigorous steps to ensure that consumers are free consume digital media anywhere within the EU, regardless from which EU country the service is played out.
Written by Stefan Zehle, CEO, Coleago Consulting