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Want to watch US Netflix in Ireland? It could be on the cards

Legally that is. The EU are on the case.

FOR THE DEDICATED tv binge-watcher, the difference in scale between streaming services like Netflix in Ireland and in other countries is a constant bugbear.

Currently, Netflix here has 2,800 titles, with its bigger American brother sporting almost three times that amount with 7,200.

The problem is geo-blocking – or blocking access to online products and services based on geographical location taken from an IP address.

Naturally, there are, ahem, not entirely legal ways around that shortcoming – people emulating their own Virtual Private Network (VPN), or faking their geographical position, being one of the most popular.  But doing so violates the Netflix terms of service.

Other instances where this is applicable include the case of RTE, where Irish citizens abroad can not access their favourite Irish shows or sporting events because of their geographical location.

Well, in the not-too-distant future there may be no more need for such skullduggery.

Belgium EU Corporate Tax Margrethe Vestager Source: AP/Press Association Images

Speaking yesterday in Berlin, European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager outlined her own frustration with the geo-blocking status quo.

“It is high time we removed these barriers, which keep Europe’s digital markets fragmented,” said Danish native Vestager.

I, for one, cannot understand why I can watch my favourite Danish channels on my tablet in Copenhagen – a service I paid for – but I can’t when I am in Brussels.
We are learning quite a bit from our current cases. Last year, we opened a formal investigation involving major US film studios and large European broadcasters and their licensing contracts.
We are examining the clauses in their contracts that prevent existing and new subscribers from accessing satellite and online pay-tv when they are outside the area covered by the license.

Vestager is proposing an inquiry into e-commerce across the EU with its end goal the creation of an effective Digital Single Market, and hopes to be in a position to report on her findings to the commission by early next year.

What creates the disparity in Netflix offerings here and in abroad is two things – the size of the market (the American one dwarfs ours), and the labyrinth of international broadcasting rights that sees different companies licensed to show different shows in every different region.

That can work both ways of course – Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul for instance are available on Netflix here but not in the US.

Whether the EU can make broadcasting behemoths bow to their will is debatable, but one thing is for sure – the Union doesn’t like geo-blocking and it has it firmly in its crosshairs.

Read: Explainer: Why is your Irish Netflix so radically different to the US version?

Read: Someone has decided to fix one of Netflix’s biggest problems

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