Figure way below expectations

COLOGNE — On Wednesday, German pubcaster ARD bought the rights to Saturday’s World Cup soccer quarter-final game between Senegal and Turkey from insolvent Teutonic broadcaster Kirch Media.

Originally, ARD and fellow pubcaster ZDF secured 24 of the 64 matches, including all the German team’sgames, for $111 million.

“This unbureaucratic and quick agreement will please the many Turkish fans in Germany,” said Alexander Liegl, Kirch Media head of sports rights.

Despite the amicable compromise, the decision undermines Kirch’s strategy of keeping the lion’s share of German broadcasting rights for its pay web Premiere, which has added 3,000 subscribers per day since the World Cup kicked off April 31.

Missing the net

But that figure is way below its expectations, and the sale of the Senegal vs. Turkey rights may be a way for bankrupt Kirch Media to recoup some of its costs.

“For us, it has always been a problem that one man had a grip on the World Cup rights and could dictate what people could see,” ARD topper Fritz Pleitgen said at a panel at Cologne’s Media Forum. “Premiere subscribers (2.4 million) against 36 million households is an exclusion we cannot accept.”

Kirch Media may have to return the rights for the World Cup in Germany in 2006, and Pleitgen said the pubcasters would be prepared to acquire the rights and willing to grant a share to RTL TV and Sat 1 at purchase prices.

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