German broadcasting deal – EU template for future agreements?

The new EU-brokered deal for top flight German football
broadcasting rights is designed to act as a template for
member states to implement Community law at national level, says EU
competition spokesperson.

Under a new ‘commitment decision’ the German football league and
the Commission have agreed to legally binding commitments in the
sale of packages of media rights. These are split into nine
different packages, four for TV broadcasting, two for internet and
two for mobile phone streaming. Some of the rights are available
only for leagues/governing bodies, others only for clubs and others
subject to negotiation between clubs and associations.

“The Commission hopes it will serve as an example for similar
decisions to be taken at national level,” EU Competition
spokesperson Jonathan Todd told EURACTIV. The spokesperson added
that DG Competition was examining the reactions to the undertakings
set out by the Premier League and is hoping a decision will be
taken on the arrangements for 2007 onwards later this year.

However, Dr Richard Haynes from the Stirling Media Research
Institute at Stirling University said: “The Commission may see this
as a standard type of agreement to be applied to various countries
but each country has quite different media environments. The
British media scene is very different from the German one in terms
of free to air and multi-channel pay-TV platforms.”

The deal follows a similar Champions League deal and an
earier FA Premier League (FAPL) deal. In the latter case,
the FAPL divided up its packages of media rights to bring in
other broadcasters (such as the BBC or ITV) to prevent BSkyB from
monopolising the televising of English premiership football
matches. The move followed pressure from the Commission. But no
broadcaster was able to meet a designated reserve price so BSkyB
kept all the rights.

Referring to this case, Dr Haynes expects that next
time round the Commission will be intent on having at least two
broadcasters securing rights to games.

In the future, he sees big clubs viewing the changes as a chance
to ‘redress the balance’ on rights towards their own pay channels.
For example he expects Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea to be
out to secure more games exclusively for their own channels.

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