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Bertelsmann balks at soccer’s TV pricetag

UEFA requests $138 mil

BERLIN — The profitability of the televised European soccer Champions League games is in serious question after Bertelsmann announced it would not pay the $138 million that the European soccer association (UEFA) is requesting.

Michael Dornemann, head of television at Bertelsmann, said there was no way the media group would fork out so much for the television rights to the 1999-2000 season games, even if it means its subsidiary web RTL would lose the broadcasting rights. The web had paid $69 million a year for the TV rights, half the amount UEFA is now demanding.

Dornemann said the decision to reject the deal was made in light of the game’s less than impressive ratings on RTL.

According to RTL managing director Gerhard Zeiler, the station has been experiencing a yearly loss of $29 million.

The Champions League recently expanded from 24 to 32 European soccer teams.

The UEFA expects revenue of up to $552 million from the games, the largest part of which would come from sale of the TV rights.

There has been talk of a possible partnership between RTL and public broadcaster ARD to share the costs, but no decisions have been finalized.

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