The European Union's competition watchdog has suspended its investigation into French pay-TV group Canal Plus' deals with the Hollywood studios.
Mario Monti, the Commissioner whose responsibilities include competition, internal markets and the information society, has put on "indefinite hold" its long-standing probe into the pay-TV company, following changes in the market.
Monti's spokesperson Amelia Torres, told Screendaily, "we are re-examining our analysis in the light of recent market events."
The investigation had been launched after concern about the lengthy duration of the exclusive output deals the channel had signed. These, it feared, shut the market to other competitors. But in recent months pay-TV rival TPS signed similar deals with Buena Vista International Television (Screendaily, Mar 4) and with Warner Bros, effectively proving that supply had not been closed.
It is not clear whether the Commission is seeking to take credit for what it now sees as a more open market, or whether with hindsight it feels that the investigation was not necessary. But by suspending, rather than canceling, the investigation it will keep up some continued pressure.
The Commission is also continuing its wider investigation into film deals between European pay-TV operators and the US studios. It is concerned that the structure of these deals may keep prices artificially high.
The Commission recently recommended that the merger between Italian pay-TV companies Telepiu (formerly owned by Canal Plus Group) and Stream, which is controlled by News Corp, be allowed to go ahead. That decision has yet to be approved by a committee of national competition authorities.
The Financial Times reports that, in that ruling, Monti recommends contracts for films last no more than three years.