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Studios sound out to UK Competition Commission as Sky pay-tv window decision looms

Studios criticise Competition Commission findings and proposed remedies ahead of next month’s provisional decision.

UK studios Paramount, Warner Bros, Universal, Fox, Disney and Sony yesterday criticized the Competition Commission’s analysis of pay-TV competition in the UK.

In a united front, the studios submitted damning assessments of the Commission’s understanding of the market and its proposed remedies to Sky’s perceived monopoly on the first subscription pay-tv window.   

The Commission had ruled that the studios’ contracts with local pay-tv kingpin Sky were anti-competitive, and suggested remedies including that Sky publish the expiry dates of its contracts relating to first subscription pay-TV window rights with the studios or that it permits rivals to access its satellite set-top box.

Fox was among the most withering claiming that the CC “persists in the fallacy that Sky controls” first subscription pay tv rights. It highlighted increased competition in the space from new SVOD players Netflix, which opened for business in the UK on Monday:

“The CC’s proposed remedies risk ossifying patterns of distribution in the UK at a time when the speed of technological change will produce market-driven developments. By way of example, the CC has failed to recognise the significance of one of the most important new forms of content distribution that is likely to affect the UK market: internet distribution. It is striking that when one of the major international players in this area, Netflix, was asked about its intention in the UK it replied that “it had no comment to make” and the CC did not pursue this further.”

NBCUniversal took a similar stance: “NBCUniversal’s clear preference, as previously stated to the Commission, would be for the market to be left to develop naturally rather than as a result of regulatory intervention.”

“NBCUniversal believes that the current situation, in which negotiations for FSPTW rights typically commence up to two years prior to those rights becoming available, provides a sufficient amount of time for all prospective buyers to evaluate and submit credible offers. NBCUniversal and the other studios are already sufficiently incentivised to involve and discuss the upcoming licensing of rights with as many parties as possible, well in advance of them becoming available,” continued their statement.

However, of the suggested remedies, Paramount and Universal both admitted that open access to Sky’s set top box offered “the best chance of being effective in resolving the competition problem.”

The Commission will publish its provisional decision on the matter next month. A final ruling on the issue is expected in August.

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