ARD/ZDF face cable surcharges for HDTV offer
Jörn Krieger

German cable operators expect public broadcasters ARD and ZDF to pay additional carriage fees for distributing their HDTV channels to be launched in February 2010.

“We want to carry the future HD channels on our networks as soon as possible, but it stands to reason that this will have to be in accordance with customary conditions,” said Thomas Braun, president of German cable association Verband Deutscher Kabelnetzbetreiber (ANGA), in Bonn. “It can’t be that ARD and ZDF pay millions to Astra for HDTV satellite distribution, but don’t want to participate in sharing the additional costs involved with cable carriage.”

ARD and ZDF are of the opinion that the cable distribution of the HDTV channels is covered by their existing carriage contracts, while cable operators expect additional fees due to the higher capacity requirements. According to ANGA, HDTV distribution takes around four times the bandwidth as digital channels in standard definition.

“ARD and ZDF are unrestrainedly pouring licence fee revenues into satellite distribution, but expect cable operators to pass on the additional costs to cable customers,” criticised Braun. “This discrimination of cable households is not acceptable and infringes the broadcasters’ public service duties. Viewers with cable subscriptions are not the cash cow for public broadcasters’ cross-financing models.”

Braun stressed that in contrast to distribution via satellite and DTT, television operators pay only a portion of the cable distribution costs. “This partnership-based cost sharing between cable operators and broadcasters has been a proven model for decades and can’t be terminated by one side without reason for HDTV deployment.”