Hollywood Studios, Sky U.K. Hit With European Pay TV Antitrust Complaint

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Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. are accused of illegally restricting access to content.

Six major U.S. film studios have been cited in an antitrust complaint made by the European Union's Commission over their dealings with British pay TV giant Sky U.K., part of pan-European Sky.

Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. were accused Thursday of illegally restricting customers' access to content within the European Union

"The Commission takes the preliminary view that each of the six studios and Sky U.K. have bilaterally agreed to put in place contractual restrictions that prevent Sky U.K. from allowing EU consumers located elsewhere to access, via satellite or online, pay-TV services available in the UK and Ireland," it said in a statement. "If the Commission's preliminary position were to be confirmed, each of the companies would have breached EU competition rules prohibiting anti-competitive agreements."

Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: "European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channels of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU. Our investigation shows that they cannot do this today, also because licensing agreements between the major film studios and Sky U.K. do not allow consumers in other EU countries to access Sky's U.K. and Irish pay-TV services, via satellite or online."

She added that the Commission believed this "may be in breach of EU competition rules," and offered the studios and Sky U.K. the opportunity to respond.

The statement added that Canal Plus of France, Sky Italia of Italy, Germany's Sky Deutschland and DTS of Spain were still under investigation.

"We are cooperating fully with the European Commissions' investigation. It is premature to comment further at this time," said a spokesperson for Warner Bros.  

"NBC Universal confirms that it has received a notice and will respond and cooperate with the European Commission," said a spokesperson for NBC. 

Sony, Fox and Paramount declined to comment.

July 23, 12:28 p.m. Updated with studio comments.

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