B'caster argues merger leaves little compeition against Kable

German paybox Premiere is taking legal action against Unity Media, the company formed by the merger of cable network operators Ish and Iesy, citing antitrust concerns.

Premiere filed suit in German court, asking that the antitrust watchdog revoke its approval of the merger, Premiere CEO Georg Kofler said in a newspaper interview.

Premiere argues that the merger of Ish and Iesy leaves too little competition against Germany’s largest cable operator, Kabel Deutschland.

The paybox has been at loggerheads with Unity since the cabler last week snatched pay TV rights for the national soccer league, which Premiere had held for 14 years.

Kofler said a company combining infrastructure and content had a dominating position that left program providers at a disadvantage. He conceded, however, that Premiere may enter talks with the cabler to acquire a share of the soccer licenses, something that had also been suggested by Unity.

Furthermore, Unity execs were quoted in the media as saying they expect to enter a partnership with Kabel Deutschland for soccer broadcast. The groups operate in different states and only together would reach the majority of the country’s households.

Meanwhile, free-TV group RTL has reached an agreement with Kabel Deutschland about the digital distribution of its five webs as of January. Kabel will maintain parallel analog distribution for RTL until 2010, by which time all TV broadcasting in Germany is projected to have transferred to digital.

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