Consumers who want to watch movies or TV-shows online are limited to the content that they are permitted to see in their home country.
This means that the Netflix library in one country can be entirely different from that of a neighboring nation.
This is a direct result of the territorial licensing deals the movie industry is built on. However, now that people are more connected online these restrictions are also an increasing source of frustration.
To counter these consumer-unfriendly limitations, the European Commission has suggested a ban on certain types of geo-blocking as part of the Digital Single Market reforms.
Some of these changes for other industries were detailed earlier this year, but the exact plans for the audio-visual sector will have to wait until this fall. This will give various movie industry insiders time to change the commission’s course.
In a keynote address at the CineEurope convention this week, MPAA Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd described the unblocking goals as a threat to the movie industry. Encouraging participants to reach out to their representatives, Dodd described the concerns as “real, very real.”
“While the stated goals of these proposals are laudable – offering greater choice to European consumers and strengthening cultural diversity – in reality, these ideas could actually cause great harm to Europe’s film industries and its consumers,” Dodd said.
“What particularly concern me are proposals that would threaten the practices of territorial licensing and contractual freedom. These practices have long served as the financial bedrock of Europe’s film industries,” he added.
Dodds fears that without territorial licensing and other exclusivity agreements, investors will pull out. This could then lead to lower budgets and fewer films.
In addition, it would take away the freedom of filmmakers to launch their products where and when they want, which is often done to maximize their chance of success in a specific region.
“The European Union is made up of 28 different nations with different cultures, different languages, and different tastes. Forcing every film to be marketed and released the same way everywhere, at the same time, is a recipe for failure,” Dodd said.
“The ability of filmmakers and distributors to market and release their films where, how, and when they think best gives them the greatest chance to succeed,” he added.
According to Dodd, geo-blocking is ultimately in the best interests of consumers as well. Citing a recent study released by Oxera, geo-unblocking would bring less diversity, less content and higher prices for consumers, he argued.
With this message, the MPAA’s boss encourages film industry insiders to reach out to their elected representatives, to make sure their position is heard.
“With summer upon us, we are reaching a critical period, and we need to keep the pressure on,” Dodd adds. “Your representatives need to hear from you.”
In a few months time, we will know whether the movie industry pressure will be able to keep the status quo intact, or if the geo-blocking notifications will become less prevalent in the future.