Bundeskartellamt probes ARD/ZDF VOD plans

21.00 Europe/London, November 28, 2011 By Robert Briel

The German Bundeskartellamt (Federal cartel authority) has opened antitrust proceedings reviewing the proposed VOD platform of public broadcasters ARD and ZDF.

The working title of the joint venture is Germany’s Gold and would offer programming from the two broadcasters, as well as from other production companies.
Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, said in a statement, “The project is subject to the same conditions as the planned platform by RTL and ProSiebenSat.1. We will consider, among other things, whether the plans of the public broadcasters will impact competition on the markets of production and licensing. In addition, we will also deal with the viewer markets. “
Last October, a number of broadcasters that are part of the ARD, a number of ZDF subsidiaries and several television production made their plans known to the Bundeskartellamt.
The VOD platform would offer programming from the participating broadcasters and production companies, as well as content from third parties. Viewers would be able to access to service at a transactional basis, by subscription or free of charge with advertising.
The Bundeskartellamt said the merger control review of the project is now completed and there are no obstacle for the joint venture, since the parties on the markets in question – unlike RTL and ProSiebenSat.1, who jointly own the TV advertising market – are not dominant and the merger will not make them dominant. However, the authority is now looking to see if the JV is not in breach of the general ban on cartels.
In March 2011 the Bundeskartellamt prohibited the proposed joint venture by RTL interactive GmbH and Pro7Sat.1 Media AG for the creation and operation of an online video platform.
The joint venture in its planned form would have further strengthened the dominant duopoly held by the two broadcasting groups RTL and Pro7Sat.1 on the German TV advertising market.
The expected coordination of business interests via the joint venture was also very likely to constitute a violation of the prohibition of anti-competitive agreements, according to the authority.