×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Walt Disney Co. Says It Will Oppose European Union Antitrust Action

The Walt Disney Co. said it would “vigorously” oppose any action that the European Union takes as part of an antitrust investigation of pay TV operator Sky and six major studios.

In a statement given to several media outlets, Disney said, “The impact of the commission’s analysis is destructive of consumer value, and we will oppose the proposed action vigorously.”

“The Walt Disney Company is a leader in embracing new and innovative digital technologies that bring its unique entertainment to families and fans worldwide,” the studio said in a statement. “Our approach is one that supports local creative industries, local digital and broadcast partners and, most importantly, consumers in every country across the E.U.”  

The E.U.’s European Commission, its executive branch, announced on Thursday that it had launched an antitrust investigation of the claim that licensing agreements between the studios and Sky are breaching competition rules.

The E.U. argues that consumers from across Europe should be allowed access to Sky’s pay TV services in the U.K. and Ireland. The investigation is focusing on so-called geo blocking, or contract clauses in which Sky is required to block access to movies to consumers outside of Ireland and the U.K. The EU argues that such practices amount to “territorial exclusivity” that “eliminate cross-border competition between pay-TV broadcasters and partition the internal market along national borders.”

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 E.U. consumers located elsewhere to access pay TV services available in the U.K. and Ireland,” according to a statement issued by the commission.

Paramount, 21st Century Fox and Sony Pictures Entertainment had no comment. A representative for NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A Warner Bros. spokesman said, “We are cooperating fully with the European Commission’s investigation. It is premature to comment further at this time.”

A spokeswoman for Sky said, “The European Commission is examining cross border access to pay TV services across a number of member states. As part of its ongoing enquiry, we have received a statement setting out the commission’s preliminary views. We will consider this and respond in due course.”

The preliminary finding from the commission is that the studio contracts with Sky violate E.U. rules that prohibit the restriction of sales of products “cross-border in the internal market responding to demands from customers not solicited by the seller.”

George Georgiev, a law professor at UCLA who has worked at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition in Brussels, noted that the case is represents just the latest effort by the E.U. to remove geographic restrictions within the European Union, having done so in other areas like telecommunications, banking and energy.

“The ‘digital single market’ is an area of particular focus for the E.U. right now because it sees itself as lagging behind the U.S. in innovation-focused areas which drive economic growth,” he said via email.

The European Commission is planning to propose a modernization of copyright rules to allow for wider access of online content across member countries.

“Geographic restrictions are fairly standard in such contracts and have been thought to be protected by copyright law,” he said. “However, there is sometimes a tension between copyright law, which permits certain restrictive practices, and antitrust rules, which generally prohibit the partitioning of markets. This case is a clear sign that the E.U. is seeking to remake or, as the Brussels authorities might say, ‘modernize’ E.U. copyright law.”

The European Commission is also looking at similar cases involving other pay TV providers, including Canal Plus in France, Sky Italia in Italy, Sky Deutschland in Germany and DTS in Spain.

In the case of Sky, Georgiev said the E.U.’s goal seems to be to make sure that Sky U.K. has the freedom to decide whether to accept offers from customers outside the U.K., as well as to make sure that U.K. pay-TV subscribers can access movies in other areas of the union.

The next step in the investigation will be for the studios and Sky to respond, after which the commission will make a final decision.

More Biz

  • Pete Frates, who is stricken with

    Pete Frates, Inspiration for The Ice Bucket Challenge, Dies at 34

    Pete Frates, the inspiration behind 2014’s wildly successful ALS movement, the Ice Bucket Challenge, died on Monday. He was 34.  The historic Ice Bucket campaign raised over $115 million to combat ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which Frates also suffered from.  “Pete never complained about his illness,” his family said in a statement.  “Instead, he [...]

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    ViacomCBS Will Explore Sale of Black Rock CBS Headquarters

    ViacomCBS will explore the sale of the famous Black Rock building, which has served as the headquarters of CBS since the mid 1960s. Bob Bakish, CEO of the company, which was created last week from the merger of CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc., said the newly combined entertainment conglomerate would explore the sale of sundry [...]

  • The recipients of the 42nd Annual

    Heartfelt Tributes Trump Politics at Kennedy Center Honors

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Political chatter was kept to a minimum Sunday night as the Kennedy Center Honors presented elaborate tributes to “Sesame Street” — made more poignant by the death of legendary puppeteer Caroll Spinney earlier in the day — as well as Sally Field, Linda Ronstadt, Earth, Wind and Fire and conductor Michael Tilson [...]

  • Chris Cornell’s Widow Sues Soundgarden

    Chris Cornell’s Widow Sues Soundgarden Over Royalties, Unreleased Recordings

    A long-simmering battle between Chris Cornell’s widow and the other members of Soundgarden broke into the open Monday morning when Vicky Cornell announced that she is suing the group over hundreds of thousands of dollars in allegedly unpaid royalties and the rights to seven unreleased recordings made before the singer’s death in May of 2017. [...]

  • Stephen Colbert Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    Julia Louis-Dreyfus Talks 'Seinfeld,' 'Sexist' Environment at 'SNL' in Q&A With Stephen Colbert

    Stephen Colbert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus swapped stories about “Saturday Night Live,” Northwestern University, “Seinfeld” and the possibility of running for office during a Q&A held Saturday as part of Montclair Film Festival’s annual “Evening with Stephen Colbert” fundraiser. Colbert, a Montclair resident, has long been a booster of the festival, which is going into its [...]

  • 2019 Kennedy Center Honoree singer Linda

    Linda Ronstadt to Mike Pompeo: Stop 'Enabling' Donald Trump

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Linda Ronstadt, one of this year’s Kennedy Center Honorees, had sharp words for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday night during a State Department reception for the Kennedy Center kudos. Ronstadt and Pompeo faced off in the U.S. State Department’s ornate diplomatic greeting rooms at the traditional event that precedes Sunday’s [...]

  • pharrell brain child show

    'Blurred Lines' Flares Up Again - Marvin Gaye Family Claims Pharrell Perjured Himself

    Like a zombie that just won’t stay dead, the “Blurred Lines” case keeps coming back. While the 2015 verdict, in which Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and the song’s publisher were ordered to pay nearly $5 million to Marvin Gaye’s family for infringing upon the late singer’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up,” was basically [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content