Streaming without borders: EU rules to allow using online subscriptions abroad

From 1 April new rules make it possible for Europeans to enjoy their online film subscriptions when they travel in another EU country the same they do at home.

Streaming without borders: new rules for online content

The new rules do not only applies to TV series and films, but also to other digital products such as e-books and songs.


Up until now access to content was blocked in many cases when people were traveling abroad.


This will change on 1 April when the regulation on cross-border portability of online services enters into force. All EU countries will have to enforce these new rules adopted by MEPs on 18 May 2017.


What will the new law change?


Under the new regulation, everyone who has paid for the right to watch, listen or read online content from a provider in their home country, will be allowed to do so in any other EU country where they are staying for a limited period.


The access is granted only to people traveling to another EU country for a limited period, for example because they are on holiday, or on a business or study trip.


Jean-Marie Cavada, the French ALDE member responsible for steering the new rules through Parliament, said: “If you live for instance in Germany but you go on holiday or visit your family or work in Spain, you will be able to access the services that you had in Germany in any other country in the Union, because the text covers the EU."


Content providers will have the possibility to verify the location of the subscribers. The draft text to be voted on calls for safeguarding measures to be included in the regulation to ensure that the data and privacy of users are respected throughout the verification process.


What about current subscriptions?


The regulation will apply retroactively, meaning it also covers subscriptions that are already in place


The bigger picture


This regulation will not only allow users to enjoy services that they have paid for, regardless of where they are in the EU. It is also expected to discourage piracy by promoting access to legally acquired content.


The measure complements the end of roaming, which became a reality on 15 June 2017, and the end of geo-blocking for online shopping, which MEPs adopted on 6 February 2018.


The video on-demand market


Nearly 11% of European households had a subscription to a video on demand service in 2016. Their number is estimated to double by 2020, according to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Netflix takes the lion’s share with 54% of the EU's subscription market.