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”.
The rules give freedom to roam during a ‘temporary’ residence in another EU country, to prevent people from exploiting national boundaries to access cheaper content on a permanent basis.
The EC’s proposals rather vaguely define the time period a consumer can access their subscriptions as while they are “temporarily abroad”.
The “temporary abroad” limit will still mean that many expats who live outside the UK will not be able to exploit these “roaming” accounts to access the digital online content.
They will still find that direct access to such services will be “geo blocked” by their non UK IP internet address. Currently, many companies block access to their services outside the country where the consumer lives and has paid for the subscription. At present, Europeans travelling within the EU may be cut off from online services providing films, sports broadcasts, music, e-books or games that they have paid for in their home country, such as the BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Sky Go.
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 EU has warned that ‘too many people are tempted into illegal downloads’, highlighting a survey which showed 22 per cent of Europeans think it is ‘acceptable to download or access copyright-protected content illegally when there is no legal alternative in their country’
However, the entertainment industry has warned against the plans. Jean Prewitt, president of the US-based Independent Film and Television Alliance, told Politico. ‘Unless the definitions are specific, there will be unintended damage on the ability to produce the very films and programs consumers want to see. 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.”
ITV already offers a online service for expats and traveller in parts of Europe. ITV Essentials offers a small selection of ITV content including Coronation Street for a monthly fee.
Sky said they needed to study the plans in more detail but said the company “welcomes anything that helps customers get even more value from their subscriptions”.