European Ruling Challenges Exclusivity Deals For Sports, TV and Film

The European Court of Justice has ruled that national exclusivity agreements for sports, film and TV show broadcasts may be in violation EU rules. The decision calls into question the legality of a business model essential to producers and broadcasters where rights are sold on a territory-by-territory basis.

The case involved a UK pub owner who used a decoder box to access Greek broadcasts of Premier League soccer games. The Court held that licensing schemes that prevent competition from other EU states contravene common market principles. In the UK, exclusive rights to the Premier League are held by BSkyB.

The ECJ said that premium paid by TV networks to ensure absolute territorial exclusivity “goes beyond what is necessary to ensure the right holders appropriate remuneration….Such a practice may result in artificial price differences between the partitioned national markets.”