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EU's OTT portability rules and their implications for OTT video providers

Divitel's Growth Marketeer Hendrik Haandrikman looks at the changes in the EU that will mean OTT services will need to be accessible cross borders for subscribers

Hot on the heels of news that roaming charges within the European Union will be phased out over the next couple of years, there's more news coming in from Brussels. If everything goes as planned, from 2018 onward online content services - including OTT video services - will need to be accessible across borders for its subscribers.

OTT Portability Within the EU

The aim of these new rules is to 'allow Europeans to fully use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when travelling within the EU', according to the press-release. It is a response to developments that see 64% of Europeans use online content services for games, music or video. A survey carried out by the EU in 2015 showed that one in three Europeans wanted these services to include cross-border portability. That same survey showed that the weight consumers placed on this portability differed quite a bit by age group, though. Over half of people in the 15-35 age group expressed that cross-border portability was 'important'.

What Does This Mean for OTT TV or Video Providers?

The agreed text must first be formally confirmed by the Council of the EU and European Parliament, but this is usually mostly a formality. When that hurdle is cleared, starting in 2018, you'll have to make it possible for users to access your content from any EU state. You'll verify a subscriber's country of residence at the moment of subscription using payment details, IP addresses or some other means of verification. That subscriber will then be able to access the content available for their region or country, wherever in the EU they may be when they try to access it. If geo-blocking of content playback is currently the only measure you take to restrict access to content in regions where you don't have the license to provide it, this will no longer be sufficient. Content creators are likely to pay very close attention to how you validate the country of residence for your subscribers, as these new rules are only meant to cover cross-border travel and are definitely not a push to abolish localized licensing of content within the EU. You're still only allowed to offer third-party content to residents of countries for which you hold the rights to do so.

ONE IMPORTANT NOTE - These rules only cover paid video services. This excludes, for example, the online services of public TV or radio broadcasters.

The Digital Single Market

These new rules, along with the roaming changes announced a week earlier, are the latest to spring forth of the EU's Digital Single Market (DSM). This EU strategy is aimed at 'opening up digital opportunities for both people and businesses, while positioning Europe as a world leader in the digital economy'. It's one of the European Commission's 10 political priorities.

It encompasses new rules, regulations and stimulus programs surrounding data security, copyright, VAT, geo-blocking and more. Though, for many in the TV and/or Video business, one of the most important initiatives within the DSM is probably the modernization of the Satallite and Cable Directive.

What Can Divitel Do To Help?

At Divitel we've assisted broadcasters, cable operators, telco's and OTT video providers all around the world in building, improving and managing some of the most state-of-the-art video delivery pipelines. We can leverage over two decades of knowledge on the industry to help you face this issue and any other issue that may come your way. Want to have a friendly chat about these and other developments in the industry? Reach out to us at or ping your regular Divitel contact.

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