Nova could soon be seen on UK TVs

Nova, Greece?s satellite TV broadcaster, should be able to have subscribers in the UK or other European countries, an adviser to Europe’s top court said on Thursday in a legal opinion that could change the way soccer fans follow their sport.

A nonbinding opinion by Advocate General Juliane Kokott at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on whether a rights holder such as the English Premier League can license its content on a country-by-country basis suggested that such deals were in contravention of European law.

The sale of broadcast rights in this way allows channels to maximize the value of their product but shuts other broadcasters out in some countries.

Kokott’s opinion concerned two cases, one of them involving British pub owner Karen Murphy, who acquired a Nova decoder from Greece to show Premier League games on her pub TV, on the grounds that the BSkyB Sky Sports monthly subscription was too expensive.

A monthly subscription to Nova, which has about 350,000 customers, costs between 27 and 58 euros compared to a reported outlay of between 500 and 2,000 pounds (600 and 2,300 euros) per month that Sky demands from some 50,000 pubs that subscribe to its service in the UK.

Murphy was sued by a body representing the broadcasting interests of the 20 English Premier League clubs. She appealed to the ECJ after losing her case in an English court.

But Kokott?s opinion could end up vindicating the pub landlady. «The exclusivity agreement relating to transmission of football matches is contrary to European Union law,» she said in her opinion, adding that «exclusivity of the rights in question have the effect of partitioning the internal market into quite separate national markets, something which constitutes a serious impairment of freedom to provide services.”

Kokott said that the «economic exploitation of the [TV] rights is not undermined by the use of foreign decoder cards as the corresponding charges have been paid for those cards.”

“Whilst those charges are not as high as the charges imposed in the UK there is… no specific right to charge different prices for a work in each member state,» she added.

Kokott said that the idea of selling on a territorial exclusivity basis was «tantamount to profiting from the elimination of the internal market.”

The ECJ is due to rule on Murphy?s case later this year.

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