Change for German football
BONN, July 24 (Reuters) – The German cartel office said the marketing model for the 2009/10 Bundesliga soccer season TV rights did not meet antitrust standards and would be banned unless changed by German football association DFL.
Thursday’s ruling means the result of the auction for the rights to show Germany’s top Bundesliga games could be delayed.
Pay-TV company Premiere AG, which counts on winning the rights to boost its earnings, said last month it was confident of securing a deal to broadcast Germany’s most popular sport.
The cartel office said it was opposed to a centralised marketing scheme for football rights that lets the DFL strike a deal for all German clubs rather than have each team negotiate a contract.
It said DFL’s proposed amendments had not gone far enough.
“DFL’s new proposal would have certainly worsened basic consumer rights,” cartel office President Bernhard Heitzer said.
The cartel office says games must be broadcast on free TV channels before 8 p.m. in order to reach a large number of viewers. It said the proposed marketing scheme did not adequately address this issue.
Premiere wants games on public television to be shown at 10 p.m. so it does not interfere with Premiere’s live broadcasts.
The cartel office decision is “incomprehensible”, DFL President Reinhard Rauball said, adding that the ruling could lead to a major loss of income for the Bundesliga and that centralised marketing must be allowed in Germany.
The DFL hired media agency Sirius, headed by media tycoon Leo Kirch, to help drum up revenues from the sale. DFL expects to make at least 500 million euros per season selling the rights.
Two analysts who declined to be named said the deal between DFL and Sirius was now effectively dead and that this could be good for Premiere, which could now produce the programme as it saw fit, should it win the contract, and the TV rights would now probably fetch less than previously estimated.
Premiere shares were 4.8 percent higher at 1138 GMT, top gainers in a lower German mid-cap MDAX index.
However, Premiere might find it hard to win new subscribers if matches are shown earlier in the day because they will not be able to broadcast them exclusively.
A Premiere official reiterated that the channel would still bid for the rights and that it could live with matches being shown earlier in the day.
Premiere also shows movies, documentaries, hit drama series such as “Lost”, and pornography, but pay TV is a difficult business in Germany, where customers are used to having over 30 free channels to choose from.