Hollywood Studios Dodge EU Fines on Sky U.K. Antitrust Pact

(Bloomberg) -- Walt Disney Co. and other Hollywood studies avoided European Union antitrust fines by settling a five-year probe into pay-TV contracts that hampered EU viewers from watching Sky Ltd.’s U.K. broadcasts.

AT&T Inc.’s Warner Brothers unit, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal and Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. also pledged to drop restrictions that would have prevented Sky U.K. from allowing EU consumers outside Britain and Ireland to watch its pay-TV services. The commitments will last for five years and are similar to an earlier pact struck by Viacom Inc.’s Paramount.

The settlement ends the last big EU antitrust case involving the U.K. before the country is set to quit the EU at the end of March. The pledge is a victory for the EU after movie studios and broadcasters argued that ending curbs on viewing content outside one territory would destroy the way they market films. An EU court rejected these arguments.

Sky said the commitments it had offered were "an appropriate and pragmatic solution to a long-running investigation." NBCUniversal said resolution of the case allows it to focus on producing and distributing its content in Europe. Sony Pictures declined to comment beyond what was in the EU press release.

Disney and Warner didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The EU is also examining similar contracts with France’s Canal+ France SA, Italy’s Sky Italia-Srl, Germany’s Sky Deutschland AG and Spain’s DTS Distribuidora de Television Digital SA.

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