UEFA's price too high for RTL

BERLIN — The European Soccer Assn. (UEFA) has announced it is canceling its Champions League contract with RTL Television.

Officials said they are ending the current contract on June 30. The UEFA’s Swiss agency Team will now be negotiating a new deal with other TV broadcasters.

According to the German press agency DPA, however, more talks are planned in March between the soccer association and RTL. UEFA cannot legally negotiate any new contracts until its current contract with RTL is canceled.

Rights fees doubled

The soccer association doubled its prices for the broadcast rights to the 1999-2000 season to $138 million when the league expanded from 24 to 32 teams. RTL and parent company Bertelsmann have gone on record saying they will not pay the new fees, adding that Champions League games have received unimpressive ratings.

RTL retains a “matching right,” meaning the web can always match the offer of a competing broadcaster. Pubcaster ARD has been rumored as an interested party. Premiere, another Bertelsmann subsidiary, holds the pay TV rights.

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

UEFA and Team recently signed a $103 million-a-year deal through 2003 with Italy’s Mediaset network, owned by Silvio Berlusconi.

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