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Sky Movies monopoly probe scrapped as rivals turn up

Competition Commission U-turns at sight of LoveFilm, Netflix

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The Competition Commission has called off the attack dogs against Sky's movie business, for now. The regulator has revised its views following the entry of Amazon's LoveFilm and Netflix into the pay-movie market.

A provisional decision made last August decreed that Sky had a monopoly on running movies first in the UK, which it calculated cost punters an extra £60m to £70m a year. The regulator says this window of opportunity to show new films is no longer particularly important to consumers.

"Competition between providers of movie services on pay TV has changed materially and, as a result of these changes, consumers now have much greater choice," said Laura Carstensen, who led the Commission's investigation.

"LoveFilm and Netflix offer services which are attractive to many consumers and they appear sufficiently well-resourced to be in a position to improve the range and quality of their content further."

She pointed out that Sky is about to offer Sky Movies over IP on a service now branded Now TV, unbundled from the usual Sky subscription.

Ofcom spent three years investigating Sky's movie business before chucking the problem at the Competition Commission.

Christensen did complain that the terms of reference handed to her were too narrow, pointing out Sky still had a grip on first-window movie runs. It's hardly an iron grip, though. Bid more money than Sky, and you get the movies. Perhaps someone in Silicon Valley might eventually consider that's money well spent, rather than spending cash on building a space elevator, or filling the hot tub with champagne. ®

Related links

The Competition Commission's statement and supporting documents.

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