We’ve all been there: traveling for work or taking a holiday and in desperate need to catch up on your subscription and paid content shows. But, up until now, that was impossible for people traveling within the European Union. That’s right, the union that otherwise brings together an entire continent couldn’t agree on which movies could play where. Now, that’s about to change.
You’ve seen it before: “This is not available for streaming”, “Content unavailable”. Well, those geoblocking messages are going to be a thing of the past. This week the European Union decided on a measure that will open the borders to allow citizens to read their ebooks, play games and watch their shows, movies and football matches anywhere within the bloc. The ruling also applies to public broadcasts meaning you’ll be able to access your favorite radio stations or broadcasts from abroad, too.
Before you get too excited, though, the legislation won’t go into effect until 2018. And there’s a little bit of a catch, but we’ll get back to that.
So how big of a deal is this? Well, think about all the times you’ve gone abroad and got huffy about missing a show. Consider how much we all travel between countries for both leisure and work. And, consider all those college kids who go on Erasmus and have to go without their favorite tv (poor kids). Then there’s the fact that this new open borders policy could let-up on some of the illegal downloading of shows before people head across borders and streaming of television shows while already abroad.
Then there are the numbers. The Irish Times reports that “nearly 11 percent of European households had a subscription to a video-on-demand service last year, with Netflix taking 54 percent of the market.” And the European Broadcasting Union says in the coming years, that number is expected to double.
So what’s the catch? Well, while the European Union’s latest decision will allow for open borders, that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone in the bloc will get the same content. Essentially, geoblocking isn’t dead. Instead, when you travel out of the country you will no longer see a “content unavailable note” and rather a verification checkpoint. Telecompaper reports that the subscription company can only ask for up to two types of criteria from a list of verification methods like an identity card, a bank account or credit card, the address of installation of the device for the supply of services, the payment by the subscriber of a licence fee for other services, an official billing or postal address — you get the picture.
So, while this isn’t the end to geoblocking many people had hoped for, it’s still something. And while this new legislation will take another year to implement, you can look forward to some other telecom-related laws coming into effect this month. During mid-June, roaming charges will no longer apply as you move across borders. Just think about all the people who are going to be streaming their favorite tv shows from home to their phones next year on holiday! Until then, at least you can call and text for a more reasonable rate this summer.