Europe opens up online pay-TV subscriptions
From Sunday 1 April it will be possible for European citizens to access online content wherever they are in the EU.
It means an end to geo-blocking, where content was blocked when trying to watch it in another EU country The new rules will allow viewers to access online pay-TV subscriptions to Canal+, Sky Sports, Netflix, etc with them when on business or on holiday.
Note that this applies “when on business or on holiday”. ie the services will have a time limit of so many days when you can access that content. Like it says, it is designed to benefit holidaymakers, not expats.
The rules apply to online subscriptions and not the reception of encrypted channels by satellite.
In a joint statement, European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, Bulgarian Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications Ivaylo Moskovski and Members of the European Parliament Pavel Svoboda and Jean-Marie Cavada explained that the rules applied to paid-for-services, but providers of free content would be able to opt in.
“Removing the boundaries that prevented Europeans from travelling with digital media and content subscriptions is yet another success of the Digital Single Market for our citizens, following the effective abolition of roaming charges that consumers all over Europe have enjoyed since June 2017.”
The Regulation on cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market (June 2017), also known as the portability regulation, enables consumers to access their portable online content services when they travel in the EU in the same way they access them at home.
However, not everyone is happy with the new rules. The Federation of German Consumer Organisations has criticised the fact that free-to-air broadcasters are not compelled to follow the directive, while the movie industry fears it will erode their ability to sell titles on a market-by-market basis.
The EU estimates that at least 29 million people, or 5.7% of consumers in the EU, could make use of cross-border portability, and many more in the future – up to 72 million people by 2020.
Examples of ‘struggles’ resolved by the new rules
A Swedish subscriber trying to watch their favourite TV series using his Home Box Office (HBO) Nordic account when on holiday in Italy can now enjoy the service as if he was in Sweden, instead of seeing a message saying that the service «is only available in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland».
A French user of the MyTF1 film and series service is now able to rent a new film while on a business trip to the UK, instead of seeing a message that such uses are not possible due to licensing issues.
A Belgian student travelling from Brussels to Berlin on a night bus can buy and watch a film from UniversCiné.
A German businessman can watch his favourite football finale on his Sky Sports account while on a business trip in Spain.
Source: European Commission
In relation to Sky UK, this appeared on an internet forum, supposedly from a Sky representative:
“Since 26th March, you can view Sky content abroad in the same way you normally enjoy your Sky TV subscription channels when outside of your home, using your favourite Sky apps on a laptop, tablet or mobile device.
You can stream Live TV and On Demand content for up to 37 days in any EU member country, then you need to connect back up in the UK/ROI, otherwise we will block viewing on the app, but then you will be free to view in an EU member country for a further 37 days, and so on.
You can use the following Sky Apps, as you would at home in the UK and ROI Sky Go, Sky Q, Sky Kids, Sky Sports, Sky Sports Mobile TV, Sky Cinema & Now TV.”
So these new rules do not remove all blocks, impose a time limit they can be used for, and do not apply to “Sky On Demand” on Sky+HD digiboxes.
It is unknown how Brexit will apply to these rules, as these rules are for EU countries, and unless the UK adopts the rules, then these changes may be short lives (in a similar way to how the EU rules on mobile phone roaming may be affected by Brexit)