Bundeskartellamt gives green light for DFL's marketing plans DFL obliged to award media rights in a fair, non-discriminatory and transparent manner and offer a number of different packages
The Bundeskartellamt has obliged the League Association and the German Football League (DFL) to observe comprehensive criteria when awarding media rights for the games of the 1st and 2nd football leagues from the 2013/2014 season onwards. On this basis the Bundeskartellamt sees no reason to intervene in DFL's central marketing system. The League Association and DFL had offered various self-commitments to dispel the authority`s concerns about competition. The Bundeskartellamt has now declared these self-commitments binding in order to guarantee that the award procedure is fair, non-discriminatory and transparent.
In principle, the pooling and 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 gains and consumers have a fair share of these.
The President of the Bundeskartellamt, Andreas Mundt, stated:
"The central marketing of media rights does restrict competition between the clubs. However, it also offers a number of advantages and efficiencies because the reports focus on the Football League as a whole and not every club decides on the type and manner of reporting on its own games. The aim of our decision is to maintain these advantages for the benefit of potential purchasers of the broadcasting rights and ultimately the consumer. The envisaged model gives the media competitive access to a number of league packages via various types of broadcasting and transmission channels. The League Association and DFL have undertaken to offer several packages for the live broadcasting of games and for highlights coverage."
Media rights for free-TV highlights coverage will be offered in two alternative "scenarios". In scenario I the first highlights coverage of the match day would be shown on TV. Scenario II would provide for highlights coverage first via web-TV or mobile transmission. The earliest TV coverage would then be at 21:45 h. Last summer the Bundeskartellamt had already informed the parties concerned that the award of media rights in both scenarios generally did not raise any competition concerns (cf. Bundeskartellamt press release of 20 June 2011).
The Bundeskartellamt has closely examined the market conditions and questioned potential purchasers of the media rights as well as other market players. In assessing the extent to which central marketing restricts competition, the authority has taken the special features of the way in which the league operates into consideration. The companies questioned generally agreed that they themselves and the TV-viewer benefit considerably from the central marketing model.
At the same time the investigations have confirmed that the League Association and DFL enjoy considerable market power over their customers. This is why it was important for the Bundeskartellamt to make sure that all the parties interested in the media rights, including smaller media content providers, are offered attractive programme content. In addition, DFL may not arbitrarily decide which customers should receive the award and which not. In contrast to individual negotiations with the 36 clubs, purchasers of broadcasting rights issued by DFL cannot switch to an alternative provider. Accordingly, DFL has undertaken to adopt a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory procedure for issuing media rights. It will decide on the award of the individual packages and the successful "scenario" on the basis of predetermined criteria.
"Although we do not expect any problems here, we will also make sure that these commitments are kept. DFL was therefore obliged to conduct an extensive documentation of the award procedure."