Bundeskartellamt approves marketing model for award of Bundesliga rights from 2017/18 football season onwards – DFL undertakes for first time to observe 'no single buyer' rule
The German League Association and the German Football League (DFL) have submitted a commitment to the Bundeskartellamt to observe comprehensive criteria when awarding media rights for the games of the 1st and 2nd football leagues from the 2017/18 season onwards. On this basis the Bundeskartellamt sees no reason to intervene in the joint selling of the rights.
The League Association and DFL had offered various self-commitments, in particular a so-called 'no single buyer' rule to dispel the authority`s concerns about competition. In future no single bidder will therefore be able to acquire the rights to broadcast all the live Bundesliga matches. The Bundeskartellamt has now declared the commitments offered as legally binding.
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt: "For us it was important to have rules which ensure that more than one single bidder gains the live rights to Bundesliga games. As long as there is only one holder of live rights in the market, there is the danger that innovation competition, especially from internet-based offers, will be restricted. As experience from other countries, e.g. England, shows, such a model does not usually mean that consumers need more than one subscription to be able to view all the games. Rights holders can also grant one another sublicences. In addition to this there should also be offers which only show some of the live games."
Due to similar considerations the regulatory authorities or legislators responsible for other major European leagues such as the English Premier League or the Italian "Lega Calcio", have already set a relatively strict 'no single buyer' rule for the sale of football TV rights where the games are divided according to number among several purchasers.
In view of the structure of the rights package proposed by the football association and DFL, the Bundeskartellamt considers it as adequate if in future between 30 and 102 attractive Bundesliga matches (of a total of 306 games) - whether all distribution channels or only internet and mobile streaming are included - together with extensive possibilities for highlights coverage, are purchased by an alternative bidder. The fact that the Bundeskartellamt did not call for a stricter 'no single buyer' rule can be explained in particular by the relatively strong position of free TV in Germany and the early broadcasting slot of (near) realtime highlights coverage (currently in the Sportschau programme of the ARD TV channel) which DFL's marketing model will maintain. The authority also took into account that live sport coverage in the internet is still in the development stage.
In principle the joint selling of the media rights of the 1st and 2nd Bundesliga clubs 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 the joint selling results in product improvements which benefit the consumer and for which the restraints of competition are indispensable.