NBCUniversal Gets $15.8M Fine Over Licensed Movie Merch in Europe
Movie merch makes for a very profitable stream of income, but it can also yield some puzzling decisions. Based on findings from the European Union, NBCUniversal executed quite a few baffling moves, leading the EU to fine it $15.8 million for limiting cross-border goods sales to European markets.
#EUAntitrust Commission fines NBCUniversal €14.3 million for restricting sales of film merchandise products. These restrictions concerned merchandise products featuring the Minions, Jurassic World and other images and characters from NBCUniversal's films.https://t.co/a0Yqguk6FS pic.twitter.com/TD7w3bixdL
— EU Competition (@EU_Competition) January 30, 2020
NBCUniversal has come to own what seems like a million assets. As far as the company’s dealings with the European Union, Financial Times reported last week that more than six years’ worth of questionable activities constituted the business decisions that NBCUniversal made when selling products between countries. That meant, essentially, that each place found itself restricted to selling within its own boundaries and could not offer consumers items, such as toys, school bags, mugs, candy and household products, that might have represented better versions of what they had or that might have served as supplemental products.
Affecting merch connected to movies/movie franchises such as “Jurassic Park” and “Minions,” the fined actions rejected the “European single market,” according to Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president of the European Commission for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, and depended on contracts to prohibit widespread online sales.
“A department store in Spain could not sell ‘ET’ pajamas from a Belgian manufacturer because that manufacturer was banned from selling into Spain,” Vestager said to reporters. “So the extraterrestrial may have made it all the way to earth—but was banned from Spain because of contractual restrictions.”
That plot-based swipe at NBCUniversal helped Vestager to conclude that “brand owners cannot prohibit their non-exclusive licensees from selling in some member states or to certain customers or from selling online” and should go a long way—even though $15.8 million is a drop in the ocean to NBCUniversal—toward making the company more accountable in its European transactions. The continent’s merchandising industry is “big business,” according to Vestager, so one wonders what the disciplinary response from the EU could mean to how NBCUniversal plots its movie merch offerings and supporting advertising campaigns. From its bigwigs to the ‘minions,’ everyone should take the verdict quite seriously, lest the EU hand down a heftier punishment and not need as much time to do so as it did this time.
Today the 3. decision in 1 year on sales restrictions on licensed products sold across Europe. @NBCUniversal had a strategy to prevent traders to sell to certain customers and countries. That undermines the Single Market. Fines today €14,3 mio, the 3 cases in total €184 mio.
— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) January 30, 2020