SKY U.K. E.U. DEAL: A PANDORA’S BOX?
Has outgoing European Competition Commissioner – and maybe next Commission president – Margrethe Vestager opened a Pandora’s Box?
On Thursday evening, the E.U. competition authorities announced they had accepted commitments from Sky U.K. and Disney, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. regarding their film licensing deals in the U.K. The settlement affects a decades-long backbone of the studio business around the world: Territory-by-territory exclusive sales. Sky U.K. and its studio partners, while not marketing the offer in other territories, promise not to bar E.U. consumers outside the U.K. who want to subscribe to its U.K. film services. So a Brit ex-pat in Madrid can now watch Sky U.K. movies without setting up a U.K. account.
But that may not be the rights Armageddon some people imagine. “What the Hollywood studios will want to avoid is an agreement in one European country which effectively becomes a pan-European deal. They will still want to negotiate their rights on a territory-by-territory basis,” said Tim Westcott, at IHS Markit.
The E.U’s objective to allow people in one country to subscribe to a service in another country effectively legitimizes a semi-grey market which already exists, he went on. Also, “people outside the U.K. and Ireland being able to subscribe to Sky U.K. is going to be a fairly niche market.”
What Europe and Hollywood’s industries may worry about most is, however, how the E.U., while recognizing that the ban on geo-blocking does not apply to film and TV, are chipping away at territoriality. The Digital Single Market drive is far from over.
GURINDER CHADHA’S ‘BEECHAM HOUSE’ CANNESERIES, MIPTV BOUND
Produced by Fremantle and Bend It TV and backed by ITV, “Beecham House,” the first fiction series from Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham,” “Bride and Prejudice”) will receive a MipTV World Premiere TV Screening on April 7 while also forming part of Canneseries lineup. Written and directed by Chadha, “Beecham House” turns on the the residents of an imposing mansion in Delhi on the cusp of the 19th century which is purchased by the enigmatic ex-soldier John Beecham. It represents the second title confirmed for Canneseries after the Studiocanal-sold Canal Plus original “Vernon Subutex” which opens Canneseries out of competition on April 5. Canneseries’ full competition lineup and entire selection will be unveiled at a Paris press conference on March 13.
MEDIASET ESPAÑA LAUNCHES A NEW CONTENT HUB
How long can broadcasters depend on near pure-play advertising? Cutting his corporate teeth at Italy’s Mediaset, after a first career as a composer, Paolo Vasile, CEO of Mediaset España, may have set something of a record, announcing on Feb. 27 decade-best full-year net profits of €200.3 million ($228.3 million), largely off Spain’s TV ad market.
But the party can’t last for ever. And Vasile also has a passion for production. On March 7, he announced the appointment of Ghislain Barrois, one of the best-connected and liked of international TV executives in Spain, to head up new sales-production house Mediterraneo. Mediaset España already posts €8 million ($9.1 million) a year in program and movie sales. As the demand for content rises exponentially in Spanish-language markets, the biggest accessible language market in the world, ME could hope in the short to medium run to increase content sales significantly. The numbers may not seem like much for a broadcast network which posts $1.1 billion in annual income. But it is incremental revenue feeding through directly to Mediaset España’s bottom line: A useful buffer indeed for results as Spain’s TV ad market foreseeably splutters but Mediaset España aims to push stock back to post-recession highs.
SID GENTLE, NFTVS, EDINBURGH TV FESTIVAL SET UP THOUSAND FILMS
Sally Woodward Gentle’s Sid Gentle Films ( “Killing Eve,” “The Durrels”), the National Film & Television School and the Edinburgh TV Festival are backing Thousand Films, a new TV screenwriting initiative aimed at fostering relationships between creative female writing talent and well-established producers. Thousand Films was founded by, and is run by, television business affairs exec Charles Dawson, formerly of Sid Gentle. It will offer any unrepresented female writer over 16 years old in the U.K. or Ireland an opportunity to submit a finished pilot script. Selected projects will be judged at the Edinburgh TV Festival which their writers will be invited to attend.Thousand Films will option some of the shortlisted scripts and mentor their writers. After the end of the program, selected writers will work on their ideas or other projects at Sid Gentle Films.