Hollywood Studios Lobby U.K. to Drop Antitrust Inquiry

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LONDON – Six Hollywood studios told the British Competition Commission Thursday to drop its assertion that the movie deals with pay-tv satcaster BSkyB are anti-competitive.

In submissions to the Commission, which has been looking at the U.K. marketplace for films on pay TV, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. all criticize the watchdog for failing to see the present levels of competition in the British market in the same way as they do.

All six note that the Commission, which in August provisionally ruled Sky Movies’ exclusive deals to show movies in the first pay-TV window as being anti-competitive (HR 8/19/11), has not taken into account the launch of rival services.

It comes hot-on-the-heels of this week’s high profile entry into the U.K. market place by Netflix and the upping of rival streaming services from Amazon’s LoveFilm here.

But a brace of studios – Paramount and NBC Universal – both favor open-access to cure any anti-competitive feeling.

Paramount’s written submission, published on the Competition’s website, states that open access “has the best chance of being effective in resolving the competition problem.”

NBC Universal’s submission reads: While this remedy might provide some short-term advantage to OTT providers, it would seem likely to become obsolete through technical and market developments such as those identified by the Commission (internet-enabled TVs and STBs).”

And Paramount said open access “has the best chance of being effective in resolving the competition problem.”

The studio deals with BSkyB are lucrative and the Competition’s recommendation that the satcaster loosens its grip on first subscription pay television windows makes for a pricing issue.

The Competition’s first recommendation to restrict Sky from signing exclusive deals with the six majors in the first subscription pay television window has now been challenged.

Loosening the grip would mean rival operators could buy the rights to other distribution methods, including video on demand.

BSkyB currently offers own on-demand programming to its set top box but, according to industry observers, is reluctant to turn the box into an over-the-top internet TV system.

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