It means an end to geo-blocking, allowing viewers will be able to access pay-TV subscriptions to Canal+, Sky Sports, Netflix, etc with them when on business or on holiday. 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. For instance, when a French consumer subscribes to CanalPlay film and series online services, the user will be able to watch the films and series available from that service in France, when he or she goes on holidays to Croatia or on a business trip to Denmark.
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.