Premiere to show soccer via Web

Move will change face of German TV

BERLIN — Pay TV broadcaster Premiere is set to make a spectacular comeback after inking an unprecedented deal with telco giant Deutsche Telekom to broadcast the upcoming season of top league Bundesliga soccer via the Internet — a move that will change the face of TV in Germany.

The partnership could spell doom for upstart soccer channel Arena, which beat out Premiere in December in the bid for regular pay TV Bundesliga rights, but it also paves the way for broadband Internet TV in the country.

“Premiere is still in the game,” said Premiere topper Georg Kofler in announcing the agreement Friday (May 19).

Deutsche Telekom is sublicensing Bundesliga Internet protocol TV (IPTV) rights to Premiere, allowing it to show all Bundesliga matches for the next three seasons.

In addition, the wide-ranging pact between the two companies will make all Premiere channels available as IPTV offerings as part of Deutsche Telekom’s T-Online Internet content platform.

In its most lucrative deal ever, the German Football League (DFL) last year sold Bundesliga pay TV rights to cable operator Unity Media, Arena’s parent, for Euros 220 million ($278 million) a year and Internet rights to Deutsche Telekom for $63 million a year.

It appears that the DFL inadvertently gave Deutsche Telekom the right to freely broadcast live matches over IPTV as part of its Internet rights purchase. The league subsequently warned Deutsche Telekom that only Arena could broadcast live pay TV coverage, but the telco has maintained that its rights are clearly stated in the contract.

“Premiere will take an active part in shaping and speeding up the technological transformation of German television,” said Kofler. “We are driving the development as an interesting alternative to conventional cable and satellite broadcasting. This new arrangement means that Premiere can use its strengths as an independent programming and marketing operator and benefit directly from the growth potential in IPTV.”

Premiere subscribers will be able to receive the broadcast via an IPTV receiver, which enables the distribution of high-quality digital TV signals in real time via Internet protocol.

The paybox currently has 3.5 million subscribers, many of whom had been expected to defect to Arena; that is now unlikely.

TV via broadband network “will become the channel with the third highest technical reach to viewers,” said Kofler, adding that IPTV is set to soon become an official digital TV standard.

Premiere’s share price, which plummeted more than 40% in December when the paybox lost the pay TV bid to Arena, soared 14.5% to $17.79 on Friday following news of the deal.

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