Negotiators from the European Parliament, the Member States and the European Commission agreed yesterday to allow Europeans complete access to their online subscriptions to movies, sports events, e-books, video games or music services while traveling within the EU. This is the first agreement announced stemming from the modernization on EU copyright rules proposed as part of the commission in the Digital Single Market strategy adopted in 2015.
Once the agreement is implemented, consumers subscribing to a subscription video-on-demand service, such as maxdome in Germany, will be able to stream content from the service while on vacation in Croatia or Finland.
This is a facility consumers have been asking for: in a 2015 survey, one-third of respondents asked for cross-border portability for their digital services. As you would expect, interest was higher among younger segments. Half of those aged 15-39 years considered this kind of digital content portability important.
This announcement comes on the heels of another announcement ending mobile roaming charges for Europeans traveling within the EU by June 15, 2017.
Consumers will still need a legitimate subscription to access their content. Their country of residence subscription details will be checked by the OTT provider using their payment details, ISP contract or IP address. According to the announcement from the European Commission, "all providers who offer paid online content services will have to follow the new rules. The services provided without payment (such as the online services of public TV or radio broadcasters) will have the possibility to decide to also provide portability to their subscribers."
The agreement will now need to be formally confirmed by the the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. The rules will then become applicable in all EU Member States in early 2018. Providers will have nine months to prepare for these changes.
This is an important announcement for OTT providers as it adds further value to their services. However, it isn't great news for local broadcasters and major Hollywood TV producers and movie studios, as it could affect local market exclusivity. For example, a local pay-TV provider may have acquired the rights to a Hollywood blockbuster, paying higher acquisition fees for exclusive access in that country. But the OTT provider may have the same rights to the same content, just in another country.
In theory, this won't make any difference, since only residents of another country will be allowed to stream that movie on a "foreign" OTT service. But in practice, we might see people sign up for a service in one country and receive it in another, especially in adjacent countries (where pricing is significantly higher or lower) or when consumers have summer homes in another, cheaper European country.
But it's definitely a convenience for most European consumers, who can now access their favorite shows while away from home, especially given the language differences across the continent.
British tourists and business travelers should enjoy this while they can -- if Britain triggers a hard Brexit at the end of March 2017 as expected, these rules will cease to apply to British consumers by April 2019.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation