Sony, Disney VoD JV wins EC approval

MovieCo challenge to BSkyB good for consumers, cablecos

MovieCo, the video-on-demand service formed by Disney, Sony and UK-based VoD specialist On Demand, will be permitted to set up shop in the UK and Ireland, the European Commission (EC) has ruled.

The verdict, announced today, follows an EC investigation into the JV's potential impact on other VoD market players and consumers. The EC decided that MovieCo "would be of benefit" to cable TV customers in the UK and Ireland, the two countries the service plans to target.

MovieCo's goal is to provide a VoD platform for UK cablecos Telewest and ntl. The EC accepted the JV principals' claim that they would provide access to the service to all content provides on a non-discriminatory basis. Disney's movie business is well known; Sony's interest comes through the participation of its Sony Pictures Entertainment subsidiary Columbia Pictures in the JV.

On Demand specialises in the development of managed broadcasting systems, such a VoD, near-VoD services and pay-per-view TV. It's partnered with Telewest and ntl before, co-operating in the formation of their JV, Front Row TV. It also launched Spanish near-VoD and PPV service Mirador on behalf of Spanish cable TV companies.

The EC ruled that MovieCo would also provide cablecos with an alternative content source to NewsCorp's BSkyB service, which currently dominates the delivery of movie content to the UK's cablecos.

Sony and Disney already operate a MovieCo company in the Netherlands. Together with On Demand, they formally sought the EC's permission for the venture early October. To date none of the partners have declared when the service will launch, however ntl recently indicated it plans to roll out a VoD service in Q1 2005. ®

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