Analysis: the present and future of Bundesliga broadcast rights

In Germany, there is currently much discussion about reshuffling the pack for the Bundesliga rights. The Federal Cartel Office is going to demand from the German soccer league Deutsche Fuball Liga (DFL) that the upcoming competitive tendering procedure for the live transmission rights be reworked so that no one single broadcaster can exclusively transmit all live matches anymore. According to such an amendment, the licences for live transmissions would be split between various tenderers.

To date, Sky has had the exclusive rights to show all Bundesliga matches live. The only exceptions have been two matches broadcast live, in parallel, by public TV in Germany. “We are still in a constructive dialogue with the DFL,” says Kay Weidner, spokesperson of the Federal Cartel Office in Bonn. One option being considered is a “No Single Buyer Rule”, which is a prohibition of exclusive assignment of permissions to one tenderer, as is already practiced by the British Premier League.

The involvement of the Telekom and Constantin Medien, which owns the sport channel and internet platform Sport 1, set the ball rolling. Both of them were present at the Federal Cartel Office and pointed out that they would also like to secure part of the Bundesliga rights. Furthermore, the internet competitors might also want a piece of the pie. After all, the Perform Group Sky acquired the exclusive rights for the Premier League last December. And even for the big international player Amazon the acquisition of rights cannot be ruled out.

In addition, Peter Hutton, managing director of Eurosport, is indicating interest in exploitation rights of German top-level football. To date, Eurosport’s parent company Discovery has had the exclusive Bundesliga rights for some areas in Europe.

“The Bundesliga has a great significance and of course as a media company we are following with interest the assignment of permissions and the accompanying possibilities,” said a spokesperson for Discovery Communication Germany in Digital Fernsehen. “We are going to look closely at the Bundesliga options for Germany but we don’t give out any details.”

After Discovery acquired the TV rights for the Olympic Games last summer, the Bundesliga rights are now on their wish list. With the acquisition of TV rights, Discovery wants to strengthen its position on the European market. “It is an important aspect of our strategic orientation to enrich our pan-European programme portfolio with targeted right acquisitions on multi-local or local level in order to become more relevant, not only in Germany but in individual markets.”

With Discovery, a powerful competitor is taking up the fight for the Bundesliga rights. Top-level football is demanding more money and might even get it. According to Axel Balkausky, sports coordinator at German public TV ARD, there will be more parties than ever who are going to bid for the Bundesliga rights: “It will be the biggest battle that we ever witnessed.”

Starting in April 2016, the DFL is going to tender the media rights for the season 2017/18. The clubs might get about one billion euro per playtime. The battle plans are compiled in the negotiations of the DFL with the Federal Cartel Office. They put together the packages that are supposed to generate higher revenues. The DFL has new kick-off times on its wish list, and to achieve that the Federal Cartel Office needs to greenlight five additional matches on Sundays and Mondays.

In these negotiations, Sky will be represented by an external rights expert. The only professional club at the table will be Bavaria Munich. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, president Bavaria Munich, questions the present practice of central licensing. “I am insistently asking the DFL to set up a competition on the market for live transmission of Bundesliga right in order to create the conditions that the revenues are going to increase significantly.”

At present, the German clubs are receiving about €628m per year while the British clubs are expected to receive about €2.3bn per season.

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