RTL-2 is being courted by five German states, each hoping to become home to the fledgling web. In return, RTL-2 would get coveted terrestrial frequencies.
“We’ve already said that we’ll move into the first state that offers us a terrestrial frequency,” RTL-2 manager Gerhard Zeiler said. “If more than one make the offer, we’ll go to the state that enables us to reach the biggest audience with those frequencies.”
Although terrestrial frequencies have lost some importance for the well-established stations, they remain crucial for start-up broadcasters like RTL-2.
Of the five stations launched since January, RTL-2, a spinoff of the successful private entertainment channel RTL, is generally reckoned to have the best chance of succeeding. Wherever it sets up shop, the station will bring jobs and prestige.
RTL’s move to Cologne several years ago made that city one of the hottest media meccas in Germany. With a decision expected in June, insiders say the behind-the-scenes battle for RTL-2 is heating up.
Of the five cities competing, only Stuttgart and Hamburg have terrestrial frequencies to give. Cologne, Munich and Berlin would have to wrest frequencies from current owners.
In Munich, media authorities have given sports channel DSF a frequency that covers the city of Munich and the state of Bavaria, but only the airwaves over the city itself are under contract. DSF is backed by the powerful Leo Kirch and Axel Springer media congloms; RTL-2 is backed by the rival Bertelsmann conglom and TeleMunchen. Bavarian authorities have expressed readiness to give the frequency outside Munich to RTL-2.
RTL-2 is also pitted against DSF in Hamburg. Frequencies were taken from DSF earlier this year on antitrust grounds.
More important, Kirch’s SAT-1 is on the verge of losing its frequency in Germany’s most populated state, Nordrhein-Westfalen, because of a challenge to the mogul’s media might.
Retracting SAT-1’s license, according to sources, would have few disadvantages for the city. With no substantial offices in Nordrhein-Westfalen, SAT-1 is not an economic boon, while a Cologne-based RTL-2 would be.
Cologne city planning department head Klaus Fruhner said a broadcaster with headquarters in the state may carry more clout than one situated outside.