Inside Move: Beeb bird runs afoul

BBC flies into H'wood storm over encryption

Three Hollywood studios have called in lawyers to iron out a dispute with the BBC, which is airing films unencrypted from digital satellite Astra 2D.

Though the BBC claims Astra’s footprint is substantially limited to the U.K., Warners, Fox and Universal fear it will spill into other Euro countries, contravening rights deals.

If the talks aren’t resolved, the Beeb could sour its relationship with the Hollywood studios — so much so that the pubcaster might not be allowed to broadcast movies and TV series such as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” and “24.”

One studio exec describes the BBC’s move as an “act of piracy” and says there had been little consultation with the Hollywood contingent before the decision was made to split from satcaster BSkyB’s encryption service.

The Motion Picture Assn. is also lobbying the BBC.

“We are in discussions with the studios that we deal with who are concerned about the implications of this,” says a BBC spokeswoman. “It’s true some negotiations are on hold. This is an issue that just has to be got over. Closing deals after the L.A. Screenings is foremost in our minds.”