German Bundesliga to remain free-to-air

Germany’s federal cartel office wants to prevent coverage of national soccer league Bundesliga being shown for the most part only on pay-TV. “It certainly would not be appropriate if the Bundesliga coverage were to be almost exclusively moved to pay-TV”, a spokesperson of the Bonn-based authority told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

At the same time, the cartel office signalled that it had, after its months’ long investigation, reached an agreement regarding the centralised selling of television rights through national soccer association Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) and its new partner Leo Kirch. “We have approved the central marketing of the Bundesliga.

The ways and means still have to be clarified”, said the spokesperson, adding that, however, the centralisation means a cartel of the Bundesliga clubs and therefore the Bundesliga games must to a large extent continue to be screened on free-to-air television. “If we allow a cartel like that, we have to ensure that viewers will benefit from its advantages.”

The tender for the Bundesliga rights has been put on ice for months due to the cartel office’s investigation. The authority is leaving open the timescale necessary to conclude the process. The cartel office’s comments are a blow for pay-TV operator Premiere, which has long been pushing for moving a larger part of the Bundesliga coverage to subscription television to gain more exclusivity. DFL also sees pay-TV as providing the most potential for increasing its income.