The Effect of Brexit on Digital Content Subscriptions and Streaming Services

BREXIT

What Was Brexit?

Brexit, or ‘British Exit‘ is the term that described the recent historical withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, which came into effect on 31st January 2020. The UK is the only nation to date to have officially left the EU, after almost half a century of membership. Apart from the general side-effects of the Brexit transition discussed below, this has also had implications on cross-border streaming access (digital content subscriptions) as of the start of the new year, January 1st.

It will be important to explore what UK subscribers located in the EU will need to do to access their streaming content once again. This means looking into how a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help to unblock content.

During the last decade, the attitudes of the British people and government towards the EU have been changing. The UK has always held a different mindset concerning its membership of the EU. The UK did not follow the same path as other EU members did, never giving up full control to the EU over British institutions, and refusing to join the Schengen area. Furthermore, the British were not exactly happy with the EU’s governance and economic system, e.g. with the consequences of Germany’s Angela Merkel’s stance on immigration, and several other factors.

Brexit’s Impact on The UK

Following the financial crisis of 2008, things became even more turbulent for the UK, namely the 2016 EU referendum where the British people would vote on leaving the EU.

Brexit had several consequences for the nation;

  • Slowing down of the economy, as well as the power of the British pound
  • EU jobs have become unavailable to the now non-EU UK workforce
  • The UK will have to form trade agreements all over again
  • UK businesses have had to move out, and move into the EU

Since a ‘no-deal’ Brexit meant an abrupt divorce between the UK and the EU, this would bring with it changes in the digital market, especially the portability of online content services. More specifically, this meant that certain media, television, and streaming subscriptions would be geo-blocked (geographically blocked) with the UK now out of the Union.

How Brexit Has Impacted Online Content Services

Since the UK is officially no longer part of the EU, this has had an overwhelming effect on the digital market -especially for online content. In the first half of 2018, the Digital Single Market came into effect for all EU member states. This regulation would be very practical for Europeans to be able to access a unified digital market and do without roaming charges as well. That regulation meant that;

  • Europeans (including UK citizens at the time) had unified access to online content services
  • These content services included subscriptions to anything from films to live sports
  • The removal of ‘boundaries’ had several advantages for both subscribers and providers

However, this would all change as of January 1st 2021, right when Brexit took hold. Since January 1st, it is confirmed that online streaming content would be affected; “The EU Portability Regulation will cease to apply to UK-EEA travel from 1 January 2021. In the UK, the regulation will be revoked” states the UK government website. The official government website also adds that; “UK customers visiting the EEA and EEA customers visiting the UK may see restrictions to the content available to them from 1 January 2021”.
Brexit 1
During negotiations in 2018, the UK government stated that over 1500 channels based in the UK that target EU countries, as well as over 500 on-demand services, would need to strategically re-locate to the EU to keep access functional. Numerous UK broadcasters have been moving their licenses outside of the UK (changing the licensing country), even before Brexit. Furthermore, it is anticipated that 750 channels licensed by Ofcom will have restrictions due to Brexit. The restrictions apply to;

  • Turner Broadcasting
  • Discovery
  • Disney
  • Modern Time Group

At this time, some popular content streaming services that have been affected due to Brexit for UK subscribers located in the EU are;

  • Netflix
  • Sky TV services
  • Apple Music
  • Spotify
  • Premier League football
  • Amazon Prime
  • BT Sport

Brexit 2

What this means for UK TV customers is that e.g. they will no longer be able to watch sports streams when located in the EU. It also works vice versa, the EU will not be able to access content specific to the UK. For movie fans, this means that TV shows will not be able to be accessed outside of the UK, and will only be able to view content licensed at their location in the EU. For sports fans, this means that live football will be blocked. Additionally, apps and web-players will not be ‘portable’ between the UK and the EU, either.

The UK broadcast giant Sky (the most widely affected), for example, has stated in a recent report that;

“From 1 January 2021, you won’t be entitled to stream Sky outside the UK using your Sky Go, Sky Sports, Sky Sports Mobile TV, and Sky Sports Box Office apps. Some Sky apps will allow you to download your favorite shows and movies over WiFi before you leave home to watch offline while you’re abroad.” Restrictions on dominant broadcasting platforms such as Sky have led to a lot of disappointment and confusion.

SkyTV user comments

Screenshot taken from https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/1378630/Sky-TV-Customers-Sky-Go-Unable-To-Access-From-Europe-Cant-Stream-Not-Working-Brexit-UK

VPN: The Solution To Unblock Streaming Services Anywhere in The World

Alas, all is not lost. Thankfully there is a way to access native digital content such as Netflix or live stream football once again, without having to resort to illegal streaming (that may contain malware). This is possible thanks to a tool called a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. A VPN is security software that basically relocates your internet connection to another server, in a country of your choice. There are also several security benefits to relish when using a VPN, such as anonymity and a secure connection.

How to Configure a VPN

By using the following steps, digital content can now be accessed even if the user is out of the country. For this instance, Surfshark (a trustworthy VPN provider) was chosen. VPNs come in free and paid versions, with paid versions being recommended over the former in most cases.

  • First of all, a VPN must be downloaded from a trustworthy provider like NordVPN or Surfshark
  • Once installed on the computer, the user will open the VPN software
  • The user will then type in their preferred country location

Surfshark

  • Once the connection is established (the user clicks on London from the list, in this case), digital content meant for the UK will now be accessible from any location in the world

Some examples of this content may be;

  • The user’s Netflix movie library
  • The user’s preferred sports live streams

Even with the Brexit digital content restrictions in place, a VPN will quickly solve dissolve these boundaries, while also providing a cloaked, anonymous, and safe connection. With a VPN, UK digital content subscriptions will ‘see’ that the user is in fact in the UK. That is something that would otherwise be impossible due to Brexit restrictions. Now, with a VPN in place, these services are fully accessible.

Tech researcher & communications specialist
Mirza has an education background in Global Communications, has worked in advertising, marketing, journalism and television over the years while living in several different countries. He is now working to consolidate news and outreach at VPNoverview.com, while in his free time he likes to work on documentary projects, read about sociology and write about world events.