The Competition Commission has put forward some convincing arguments on Sky’s movie rights, Canal+ is hoping it can do the same, writes Julian Clover.
The French press has been keeping a close eye on the Competition Commission’s investigation into BSkyB’s pay-TV movie rights.
On the other side of La Manche questions are being asked about the control over movie rights held by Canal+, which has dominated the French media scene for even longer than Sky has been present in the UK market.
The catalyst has been the reopening of the conditions into Canal’s merger with TPS, which happened so long ago that in the intervening period Orange has potentially come and gone as a potential competitor.
Entertainingly, Canal had made noises about the deep pockets of Orange, in the way that when it was a rival platform TPS had moaned about Canal.
So Canal is now facing restrictions on the duration of contracts it has with the studios – it currently holds five out of seven majors – while its online distributor Canal Play will face restrictions on what it can acquire.
Regulators often suffer, invariably through no fault of their own, from the speed at which they react to technological advances.
The Competition Commission was wise to what was taking place with both Lovefilm, which had been gradually extending its DVD by post offer into the online environment, and of course Netflix.
Early on Sky had been accused of sitting on online rights, when the reality was that the technology was in its infancy to the extent that it could not sensibly offer a commercial proposition. Maybe Sky was sitting on the rights, but if Sky couldn’t do anything with them, who could.
NOW TV, Sky’s standalone OTT platform scheduled to launch in the summer, was also clearly a key factor in the Commission’s decision not to take any action as had been the case in the separate investigation into sports rights.
Soon the UK consumer can now choose between Netflix, Lovefilm, NowTV or any of the many smaller services available.
Canal will no doubt be preparing similar arguments.