Venture to offer TV content free of charge

BERLIN — Teutonic broadcasting giants ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL Germany are joining forces to launch an online platform offering TV content free of charge.

The joint venture, announced Friday, will be offered to both commercial and public channels in Germany and Austria and effectively preempts the launch of a competing international online offering in the region, such as Hulu.

The platform will offer series, films, shows and news broadcasts, available to Internet users in a central, web-based offering. Users will be able to retrieve all the content as a stream, free of charge, seven days after its TV broadcast.

RTL’s hit series include “House,” “CSI: Miami” and local Autobahn actioner “Alarm for Cobra 11,” while ProSieben airs U.S. shows like “Supernatural” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” RTL Germany operates five channels, including a tyke web and a news outlet, while ProSiebenSat.1 offers three free-to-air channels plus a new digital weblet aimed at female viewers.

Participating broadcasters would be independently responsible for marketing their own offerings on the platform and individually pay for the use of the technical infrastructure and services.

The setup and operation of the platform is subject to approval by the European Commission antitrust watchdog.

“For the first time, the new platform will give Internet users the ability to retrieve time-shifted TV content via a central and clearly organized Internet platform tailored to the German and Austrian markets,” the companies said in a joint statement. “The platform will strengthen competition in the German and Austrian market and is intended to help to put participating TV channels in a strong position to compete with international Internet offerings.”

Up until now commercial broadcasters have focused on paid Internet content while Germany’s pubcasters ARD and ZDF offer their own free online offerings.

Hulu, which is owned by NBC Universal, Fox and ABC and recently launched its subscription-based Hulu Plus, has been eyeing international expansion, but has not been able to win over any broadcasting partners in Europe, most of which are similarly focusing on their own Internet platforms.

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