European officials have proposed new rules for video streaming companies as part of an effort to regulate online services for the region’s 500 million consumers. Part of that effort would be to require streaming companies to not only carry a certain amount of local content, but to chip in to pay for its development, as do national broadcasters. The goal, say officials, is to boost the region’s local economies. Apple, Facebook and Netflix, which dominate the European online space, would be the U.S. companies most impacted.
The New York Times notes that new regulations would “complicate their international expansion plans,” particularly for Netflix which has already stated “ambitious growth proposals for Europe and beyond.”
Netflix already produces local content, including the high-profile “Marseille,” about French politics, and the series “Suburra,” about organized crime in Italy. Although Netflix produces these shows to attract local viewers, the company is not eager to see specific quotas for local content.
“We appreciate the commission’s objective to have European production flourish, however, the proposed measures won’t actually achieve that,” said Netflix spokesperson Joris Evers.
The latest proposals would also give individual countries the ability to require video streaming services “to help pay for the production of local content, like movies and television programs.”
“The way we watch TV or videos may have changed, but our values don’t,” said European commissioner Günther Oettinger. “With these new rules, we will uphold media pluralism.”
Traditional broadcasters including the U.K.’s BBC and France’s TF1 Group already pay about 20 percent of their annual revenue in the countries where they operate to support local content, says NYT. Streaming services, which currently invest about 1 percent of annual revenue in local content, would be required “to ensure that at least 20 percent of their online content is from Europe.” A European Commission report found that Netflix and Apple already meet this requirement.
Bloomberg clarifies details of the new proposals, noting that geo-blocking for entertainment was not addressed by the most recent proposals. Some groups, such as European Parliament’s Greens, are not happy.
“An anti-geo-blocking regulation that does not cover online video content misses the point,” said Green member Julia Reda. But the regulations do impact geo-blocking for online shoppers, saying they “should have access to the same products and, crucially, those products at the same prices, regardless of where the buyer is located.”