Sky, U.S. studios to fight antitrust charges at January hearing: sources

(Reuters) - Sky UK, NBCUniversal and five other U.S. studios will try to convince EU antitrust regulators at a hearing next month that their movie-licensing deals are not anti-competitive, three people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The European Commission in July accused the group of blocking consumers outside the UK and Ireland access to films and other content broadcasted by the British TV station. Other clauses in the deals prevent other broadcasters from making their pay-TV services available in the UK and Ireland.

The EU executive is seeking to end restrictions which hinder cross-border trade in an effort to spur e-commerce and growth in the 28-country bloc.

The U.S. studios named in the Commission’s charge sheet are Disney, NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corp, Paramount Pictures, part of Viacom, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros.

The closed-door hearing will be held on Jan. 18-19, the people said. Such events allow the defendants to present their case before a broad audience of senior Commission officials, national competition regulators, rivals and customers.

Commission spokeswoman Lucia Caudet declined to comment. Sky UK did not immediately reply to an email for comment.

Sky UK and the studios face the possibility of hefty fines and could be forced to change their business models if found guilty of breaching EU competition rules.