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Rabe: “Europe should consolidate against streamers” Interagency cooperation dismantles piracy network Thomas Rabe, chief executive and chairman of media group Bertelsmann, says regulators should allow European media companies to scout mergers and partnerships to enable them to compete with US streaming giants such as Netflix and Disney+. Rabe told the FT that the economic impact of coronavirus on the industry had strengthened his view that it will be necessary to redraw the European media landscape. An alleged criminal network of copyright infringing hackers, responsible for pirating movies and hosting illegal digital contents worldwide, has been dismantled in a coordinated action between US authorities and their counterparts in 18 countries around the world, with Eurojust and Europol support. Over 60 servers were taken down in North America, Europe and Asia and several of the main suspects were arrested. The alleged illegal activity was causing tens of millions of dollars in losses on an annual “There is a strong case and a need for consolidation,” he said. “I’m convinced that partnerships are more important than ever, especially after the coronavirus, which hurt European TV broadcasters and has helped the US streaming platforms.” US streaming services have seen their subscriber numbers and revenues boosted as lockdown measures around the globe meant millions more turned to watching content online. Although audiences also grew among European TV broadcasters for the same reason, these groups have suffered from a sharp drop-off in advertising. Bertelsmann division RTL Group reported a 16.4% fall in revenue to €2.7 billion in the six months to June. Net profit slumped 65% to €156 million. Rabe, who also chairs RTL, did not offer an annual “I’m convinced that partnerships are more important than ever.” rescuing their battered economies. forecast, saying that conditions remain unpredictable because of the pandemic, although he believes future lockdowns are more likely to be local than national as governments focus on Nevertheless, he added that the rise of US streaming services will be a challenge that outlasts the crisis, and urged European regulators not to adopt strict interpretations of competition law in order to take into account a new era of competition. “We should be allowed to create national TV champions,” he said, adding that RTL was “open-minded to exploring such possibilities” in the markets where it operates. basis mainly to the US movie, television, and supporting industries. Based on allegations contained in court documents, the organised crime group (OCG) called the ‘Sparks Group’ dismantled on August 25th was one of the biggest online piracy groups in the world. Through fraud they obtained legal copies of DVD and Blu-Ray disks of blockbuster movies, television shows, and other content in advance of their release dates, compromised their copyright protections and then uploaded and distributed copies via servers operated by the OCG. The content was made available prior to its retail release date and further distributed via streaming websites, peer-to-peer networks, torrent networks, and other servers accessible to the public, causing major losses to the film production industry. “Thanks to the long-standing partnership between the US and the European authorities, we managed to deal a significant blow to online piracy.” ‘This case is an excellent example of what can be achieved if we work together across borders and continents,” stated Ladislav Hamran, president of Eurojust. “Thanks to the long-standing partnership between the US and the European authorities, we managed to deal a significant blow to online piracy. My sincere congratulations go out to all countries involved in this joint action.” “In an investigation that spanned several time zones, the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies in the United States worked very closely with national authorities from all other countries involved, exchanging necessary information in real time in a highly dynamic landscape,” advised Vaughn Ary, director of the US Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. “The Department extends our gratitude to Eurojust, Europol, and our international partners, who played a critical role in the investigation and takedown of these alleged cyber criminals.” EUROMEDIA 9