Bundeskartellamt signals possible approval for DFL's marketing plans for the 2013/2014 season onwards - details still need to be clarified
The Bundeskartellamt is currently examining DFL's marketing model for the award of media rights to the 1st and 2nd German Football League (Bundesliga) from the 2013/2014 season onwards. Talks with DFL are still ongoing. Upon request the Bundeskartellamt confimed that DFL has been informed in these talks that its marketing plans do not raise any significant competition concerns. This is a preliminary assessment. Individual issues, in particular with regard to the different broadcasting rights packages and the organisation of the tender process, still require clarification.
The President of the Bundeskartellamt, Andreas Mundt, stated:
"It is not for us to decide which form of coverage will ultimately be successful. We are examining the broadcasting rights packages to establish whether the marketing model as a whole is compatible with competition law. According to our preliminary assessment the marketing model planned by DFL to take effect from the 2013/14 season fulfils this requirement. In the further course of the examination we will clarify in particular individual issues relating to the different broadcasting rights packages and ensure that the tender process can be conducted in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner."
In principle, the central marketing of the clubs' media rights by DFL represents an anti-competitive agreement. Under German and European competition law such agreements can only be exempted from the prohibition of cartels if they result in efficiency advantages and consumers have a fair share of these.
The marketing model now planned by DFL contains a large number of broadcasting rights packages to be used both in free TV and pay TV via different transmission paths. With regard tothe free-TV highlights coverage the marketing model includes two alternative scenarios. Scenario I provides inter alia for a package for free-TV highlights coverage from 18:30 h. Scenario II, on the other hand, includes a package for highlights coverage via "Netcast" (i.e. mainly Web-TV) from 19:00 h and free-TV coverage from 21:45 h.
In 2008 the Bundeskartellamt examined DFL's marketing model for the 2009/2010 season. At the time the authority indicated that prompt free-TV highlights coverage was essential for the question of whether consumers receive a fair share of the benefits, whereupon DFL changed its original plans. In the Bundeskartellamt's view, due to the form of the marketing model at that time, it was necessary to increase the attractiveness of the free-TV rights by setting time requirements. The market investigations conducted by the authority in the meantime have shown that it would not be justified to impose a similar requirement on the DFL plans that are now to be examined.
"The conditions we found in 2008 are not comparable to today's situation. This time we did not have to deal with any plans by DFL to start its own Bundesliga channel or with the "Kirch model". When looking at the whole period of the tender process, the Web-TV transmission path may also come to play a more important role. Ultimately, the market has to decide which scenario will be successful."