European Commission launches case against broadcaster and studios for potentially “serious violation of EU rules.”

The European Union has launched an anti-trust case against pay TV giant Sky and the six major Hollywood studios, accusing them of illegally curbing cross-border access to Sky’s pay-TV content.

The six studios comprise Disney, Comcast-owned NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Bros.

The EU says the studios and Sky unfairly prevent consumers located elsewhere in Europe from accessing pay-TV services available in the UK and Ireland.

According to regulators, contracts between Sky and the studios require that Sky block access to films through its online or satellite services to consumers outside of the UK.

In turn, the studios are required to prevent other broadcasters from making their pay TV services available in the UK and Ireland, giving Sky “territorial exclusivity.”

An EC communique stated: “The EC is taking ‘the preliminary view’ that each of the companies bilaterally agreed to put in place contractual restrictions that prevent Sky UK from allowing EU consumers outside the UK and Ireland from accessing certain services.”

“The Commission’s preliminary conclusion is that, in the absence of convincing justification, the clauses would constitute a serious violation of EU rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreements.”

The move comes amid EC moves to remodel the system of geoblocking content in Europe and other antitrust cases against big American companies such as Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: “European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channels of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU. Our investigation shows that they cannot do this today, also because licensing agreements between the major film studios and Sky UK do not allow consumers in other EU countries to access Sky’s UK and Irish pay-TV services, via satellite or online.

“We believe that this may be in breach of EU competition rules. The studios and Sky UK now have the chance to respond to our concerns.”

Sky issued the following statement: “The European Commission is examining cross border access to Pay TV services across a number of member states. As part of its ongoing enquiry, we have received a statement setting out the Commission’s preliminary views. We will consider this and respond in due course.”

The European Commission added that it was also looking at similar cases involving other pay TV providers, including Canal Plus in France, Sky Italia in Italy, Sky Deutschland in Germany and DTS in Spain.