Netflix and Sky Sports could be unblocked for European travellers | Media | The Guardian
People who legally buy content such as films, TV shows and football matches should be able to watch them throughout Europe, says EC official

Consumers who subscribe to TV, sports and film services – from Sky Sports to Netflix – will be able to access them when they travel within Europe under proposed new EU rules.

Under the proposals, part of the European Commissions’s digital single-market strategy, Europeans will be able to access every media service they subscribe to in their home country while “temporarily abroad”.

Currently, many companies block access to their services outside the country where the consumer lives and has paid for the subscription.

“We want to ensure the portability of content across borders,” said Andrus Ansip, vice president for the digital single-market at the EC. “People who legally buy content – film, books, football matches, TV series – must be able to carry it with them anywhere they go in Europe. Our aim is to widen people’s access to cultural content online and support creators.”

The Premier League has raised concerns that without a clear time period defining how long someone can be abroad and continue to access their services, consumers could look to buy subscriptions where they are cheapest in the European Union.

The EC’s proposals rather vaguely define the time period a consumer can access their subscriptions as while they are “temporarily abroad”.

“One unresolved issue is the absence of any time limit on the period that applies to portability,” said Richard Scudamore, executive chairman at the Premier League.

The Premier League, which makes billions of pounds from selling its TV rights across Europe, cautiously welcomed the proposals.

“The Premier League’s new European contracts [will] already permit portable services, a market-led solution that didn’t need to wait for this new proposal from the commission,” Scudamore said. “We therefore welcome the proposal in principle, seeking as it does to strike a sensible balance by introducing a portable solution for consumers when they travel cross-border for temporary periods, while still keeping the significant benefits to consumers of selling rights territory by territory.”

Broadcasters and content companies want to make sure there is balance in how the new proposals are implemented, such as verifying viewers and controls to stop “subscription shopping”.

A spokesman for Sky said the broadcaster, which has operations in the UK, Italy and Germany, needed to study the plans in more detail but said the company “welcomes anything that helps customers get even more value from their subscriptions”.

The proposals have also raised concerns among TV and film-makers and rights holders, who fear that allowing pan-European access will undermine the ability to sell content in multiple markets.

John McVay, the chief executive of independent producers’ body Pact, said the proposals have “inadequate safeguards to prevent abuse”.

“The commission’s proposals to mandate cross-border access to digital content remain a significant concern for producers, distributors and broadcasters of film and TV content in the UK and across the EU,” he said. “Any intervention that undermines the ability to license on an exclusive territorial basis will lead to less investment in new productions and reduce the quality and range of content available to consumers.”

A spokesman for Netflix said: “We’re committed to providing Netflix members with great programming wherever they are and are studying the EU’s proposal.”