Terry Duffelen
Tue 22 July 2008

Bundesbag: TV Drama

A scrap has been developing in Germany between the Government and the Bundesliga over a new TV deal which has led to a national institution coming under threat.

The start of the 2009/10 season could be an important time for the Bundesliga. The current TV deal finishes at the end of this season and the league's representatives, headed up by Leo Kirch of all people, are looking to line up a multi-billion euro deal with pay-TV giants Premiere for exclusive coverage of the league. With club ownership rules making it harder to attract investment than with other major European leagues, a lucrative TV deal is seen as imperative by the clubs if they want to compete at the top level of European competition.

Unfortunately for them, German anti-trust authorities stepped in and are threatening to scupper the arrangement, and why? Well, mainly because the exclusivity of the deal which is seen to be anti-competitive. It's a similar situation to what we had here in England when the EU basically instructed the Premier League not to sell all their rights to one provider (Sky). Consequently, Setanta have entered the fray as provider of live EPL matches, albeit low rent ones. In Germany, the authorities are unhappy at the prospect of all this football in the hands of one broadcaster who could hold football fans to ransom and charge, within reason, whatever they liked. If people didn't pay, they probably didn't watch, because the start of this new deal would also mean the end of Sportschau.

Sportschau is the German equivalent to Match Of The Day… sort of. Sportschau is on Saturday early evening time-slot as compare to the late night slot for MOTD. You may recall ITV's ill-fated attempt to introduce Premier League highlights to early evenings on a Saturday and it didn't last long, largely because it was crap. However, in Germany the time-slot has been associated with football for many years.

What also binds the two programmes is that they are institutions. Imagine, then, the outcry when the Bundesliga announced that, ahead of the new TV contract negotiations, Saturday early evening highlights were to be scrapped in favour of a later time-slot, similar to MOTD. The plan was that the later slot will persuade more people to sign up for football on a pay-TV deal. Sportschau's days were numbered. Except they weren't. The German Cartel Office stepped in and gave the Premiere deal the ok if and only if they committed to a weekly free-to air highlights programme on Saturday's prior to 20:00 CET. After all the wrangling and words of warning by the DFL that their business model was under threat and after warnings from the Man that the Bundesliga was getting too big for its boots, all the argument really boils down to is the German equivalent of MOTD.

This may, of course, reduce the overall value of the deal with Premiere, although you get the feeling the Bundesliga will cope. Also, it does not necessarily mean that Sportschau will return since the channel it broadcasts on, ARD, may not win the rights (although commercial rivals RTL have said they may not bid for them). However, Saturday evening Bundesliga free-to-air highlights appear to have been saved, for now at least.

I wonder what the German for 'Tactics Truck' is?

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