As streaming entertainment rapidly replaces traditional broadcast and cable networks, customers have a broader menu of choices and complete control over when they want to watch their favorite programs.
More difficult to control, however, is geographical access to these services. An increasing number of streaming service providers are restricting their services to customers who live within certain geographical bounds. Europe’s antitrust probe is examining the legality of this practice, however, and the results may change how you experience streaming entertainment both at home and abroad.
Who is Targeted by the Antitrust Probe
The EU’s antitrust probe is targeted at Sky UK and six Hollywood film studios. Disney, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Bros. are all included in the investigation. Sky UK and the six film studios entered into an agreement which requires that Sky UK block any viewers outside the U.K. Customers outside these geographical bounds are excluded from watching films from these companies both through online and satellite services.
In return, the participating film studios prevent other broadcasters from sharing their pay TV services anywhere within the UK and Ireland, thus giving Sky UK exclusivity within their territory.
The EU’s Accusation
This agreement is under investigation by the EU because it is against the bloc’s single market principle. The Digital Single Market strategy in the EU was designed to remove geographic barriers between European countries and eliminate this type of geo-blocking. The European Commission strives to ensure that consumers who purchase content such as films and music can access them from any country in Europe.
By unifying the digital market in Europe, the Commission hopes to facilitate the kind of scaling that’s necessary for their tech industry to compete with competitors like Asia and the United States. Divisive agreements for tech services within the EU undermine these efforts.
How VPNs Battle Geo-Restriction
If the European Commission prevails, such agreements may be forced to change, providing access to streaming television and movies throughout Europe and eliminating geo-restrictions within the EU. However, it is possible for consumers to bypass these geo-restrictions even as the probe is pending. If you’re interested in accessing Sky UK programming from somewhere other than the UK and Ireland, you can do so through a VPN.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is typically used as a security measure. It encrypts and protects your data so you can surf the web, conduct business, share documents, or watch streaming entertainment anywhere without security concerns. A VPN can also help you access geo-restricted content by routing your information through a server within the accepted location.
Connecting Through a VPN Now
If you don’t want to wait for the legal battle to eliminate geo-restriction for you, you can start watching your favorite shows immediately with a program like Hotspot Shield. Connecting through a VPN is surprisingly easy. Download Hotspot Shield to the appropriate device and access the settings. The Elite, premium version, lets you choose your virtual location to determine where the entertainment provider sees you logging in from. If you want to access Sky UK, log in to your Elite account and select UK as your virtual location inside the app. Once you’re set up, you can access your favorite content (Netflix, Pandora, ITV, BBC iPlayer, All 4, Yahoo Screen, and many more) no matter where you are.
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Geo-restriction is an ongoing battle not only in the EU, but around the world. Entertainment providers naturally want to maintain control over who has access to their content, but this is becoming increasingly difficult. Technology offers an easy way for even the everyday consumer to bypass these restrictions and access a global bank of streaming entertainment and online content regardless of the viewer’s physical location. How entertainment providers will choose to respond to the push back in this area remains to be seen.