RTL threatens to leave DTT in Germany

Jörn Krieger | 17-01-2013

German commercial broadcaster Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland has threatened to remove its channels from digital terrestrial television (DTT) as there is currently neither long-term security to safeguard the frequencies for broadcast usage nor a perspective for the introduction of basic encryption.

A future for terrestrial broadcasting would, for many channels, only be possible under stable economic framework conditions if encryption is employed, Marc Schröder, managing director of RTL Interactive, told Rapid TV News. "The development of terrestrial broadcasting into this new future-proof shape is only possibly if the whole industry commits to make this move." But neither the federal states nor the regulatory and media authorities are showing willing to support such a project. "Despite intense efforts by the infrastructure operators, we currently don't see an economically viable business model," said Schröder.

Schröder also criticises a lack of political planning security: "We don't see a stable continuation of terrestrial frequencies to remain within the scope of broadcast usage beyond the year 2020 jointly being guaranteed by the Government and the federal states which would justify the required investment volume in the two-digit million euro range for Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland alone." Therefore, the company currently doesn't see a possibility to continue terrestrial broadcasting on the basis of DVB-T in Germany.

At the same time, the broadcaster argues that DTT would be by far the most expensive distribution method, around 30 times more expensive than satellite. 95.8% of viewers are reached by RTL's channels via cable, satellite and IPTV, and only 4.2% through DTT. According to research from AGF/GfK, 1.17 million households currently receive RTL's channels terrestrially throughout Germany.

The broadcaster's contracts for DTT distribution of its channels RTL, VOX, Super RTL and RTL II, as well as n-tv in Berlin, will expire on 31 December 2014. This also affects the encrypted DTT distribution on the Viseo+ platform in Stuttgart and Halle/Leipzig. An exception is Munich where the contract expires on 31 May 2013. The DTT retreat would lead to around 90,000 households in the Bavarian Capital losing reception of RTL's channels. The broadcaster already pulled its channels from terrestrial airwaves in Nuremberg on 31 October 2010.

Schröder stressed that RTL is still convinced that wireless distribution would make sense for broadcasters in general, also for mobile reception, and that this part of the frequency spectrum should therefore remain allocated to broadcast usage. The company therefore wants to negotiate about participation in a DVB-T2 project in Austria. "In contrast to Germany, the framework conditions - encrypted distribution and long-term planning security through provision of the necessary frequency resources - are seen as considerably more positive over there."