BERLIN — Pay TV platform Premiere is bracing for bad news from Germany’s antitrust watchdog, which has signaled partial approval for the German Football League’s (DFL) ambitious marketing plans for top league Bundesliga soccer and, in a surprise turn, trained its crosshairs on the paybox itself.
Although it has yet to issue a final decision, the Federal Cartel Office has said it looks critically on Premiere’s plan to carry the Bundesliga exclusively.
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, citing Cartel Office sources, said the watchdog supported broader coverage of the Bundesliga matches, something the DFL’s plans would provide.
The news startled Premiere shareholders, triggering a drop in the company’s stock price of more than 7% to Euros 12.33 ($19.43) on Thursday.
The DFL last year pacted with Leo Kirch’s Sirius SportMedia to not only market Bundesliga broadcast rights in Germany but also produce and sell ready-to-air Bundesliga programs to domestic broadcasters and cablers that would not normally have the chance to produce their own coverage.
The watchdog has approved the DFL’s role as Bundesliga’s main marketer — one of the deal’s original sticking points — but has yet to rule on the league’s plans with Kirch to produce and sell Bundesliga coverage.
Industry observers still expect the Cartel Office to have some objections to the distribution of pre-produced programming, including conflict-of-interest concerns in view of Kirch’s media assets, such as sports channel DSF and sports production company Plazamedia.
Premiere, which produces its own Bundesliga coverage with in-house commentators, is dead set against acquiring Kirch’s prepackaged programming, saying such a setup would compromise the paybox’s journalistic integrity, not to mention that such a distribution scheme would eliminate the paybox’s exclusive hold on soccer.