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European industry, US studios unite to fight EU moves to prevent geo-blocking by audiovisual services

Source: Pixabay

The Creative Europe MEDIA Programme is funded by the European Commission

Over 600 film and TV companies and associations from across Europe have signed a joint letter urging the European Parliament to oppose moves to ban geo-blocking by audiovisual services across the EU.

The letter has been signed by a who’s who of the European industry. It includes festivals such as the Berlinale and Karlovy Vary through to associations such as FIAD, CEPI, Europa Distribution and Europa International; sales agents such as Goodfellas, Kinology, Heretic and mk2 Films; producers including Constantin and Les Films du Losange; exhibitors like Vue, Cineworld and Kinopolis; and broadcasters such as Canal+ and Sky.

US studios including Warner Bros Discovery, Paramount and Universal have also signed.

The European Parliament is voting on Wednesday (December 13) whether to re-assess its 2018 Geo-blocking Regulation.

The existing regulation prohibits unjustified geographical restrictions on the sale of goods and services within the EU but includes an exemption for film and TV.

Geo-blocking underpins the functioning of the film and TV production and distribution markets in Europe, allowing titles to be exploited on a territory-by-territory basis. Sales agents, for example, help finance films by selling key territories to distributors who will release them exclusively in their country.

But some in the European Parliament want to end the exemption for audiovisual services, arguing it runs counter to the concept of a digital single European market. They believe a wider choice of content would be available across borders if the Geo-blocking Regulation were to be extended to cover audiovisual content.

In turn, many audiovisual execs believe MEPs do not understand the complexities around the financing of film and TV series. They are worried MEPs may scrap the audiovisual exemption without fully realising the impact on the film and TV industries.

The joint letter, signed by 619 associations and companies so far, says that scrapping the exemption would “jeopardise a €47bn sector largely composed of SMEs and individual creators, totalling more than two million jobs in the EU” and would also harm Europe’s cultural and linguistic diversity.

The letter says: “A ban on the use of geo-blocking technology to support territorial exclusivity for film and audiovisual content and services would severely jeopardise the creative and economic sustainability of the film and audiovisual sector in Europe.

“This would result in a drop in the number and range of films and audiovisual content produced, with a smaller variety of languages. Distribution and circulation would be drastically reduced across the EU. This would have a direct and negative impact on consumer welfare: significant reduction of choice in content, distribution, and access options as well as a surge in prices.”

The joint letter points out that, on average, European consumers currently have access to more than 8,500 European films online, according to European Audiovisual Observatory research.

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