Most of us are familiar with the concept of geographical restrictions, the controls put in place to ensure that a particular piece of content can only be viewed in a certain territory.
Anyone with a DVD player will know that it is relatively easy to find out how to jailbreak most units in order to watch that DVD you picked up at the airport on the way back from yet another conference.
TV however has taken its time, but the seeds have been sown in TV Everywhere, and now the EC is looking into the possibility of opening it up further.
If as an operator you let your customers download content to an iPad or Android device they can, subject to a few business rules, jump on a plane and view on the other side of the world. Maybe this is a side effect of Netflix or just a natural evolution. What you can’t do, at least within the law, is set up home in a neighbouring country and expect to tune into premium content from back home.
Not that you would know that looking at the skyline. Not far from where I live in Cambridge a Fish & Chip shop, as British as you can get, had two satellite dishes on the roof with the logos of two of Poland’s leading platforms. There are no Polish channels on Sky and it took until this week for multicultural Britain to get its first foreign language channel on Freeview. Al Jazeera is coming close to the PSBs for the number of services it runs on the DTT platform.
The anti trust investigation launched by Joaquín Almunia, VP of the European Commission responsible for competition policy, will look both at the pay-TV operators and the major Hollywood studios.
In his statement this week Almunia said he was not calling into question the possibility to grant licences on a territorial basis or oblige studios to sell rights on a pan-European basis. Instead the investigation will focus on restrictions preventing the selling of the content in response to unsolicited requests from viewers located in other Member States – the so-called “passive sales” – or to existing subscribers who move or travel abroad.
So at first glance this is not a threat to the business models of the smaller pay-TV companies who would surely lose out to the more attractive propositions of Sky and Canal Plus. Nor is it likely to give the green light to pubs wanting to screen the Saturday 3pm football kick offs not permitted to be shown live on UK TV.
What it should do is stop my iPad from telling me I can’t view a news channel because I’m not in the UK and then prevent me from downloading the international version of the app because I am tied to the UK store.