Teuton pubcasters pull digital World Cup transmission

ARD, ZDF and Kirch fail to solve cross-border problem

COLOGNE — Moments before the kick-off of the World Cup in South Korea Friday, Kirch Media and German pubcasters ARD and ZDF announced that they could not reach agreement on how to digitally transmit the international soccer championship.

As a consequence, an estimated one million digital TV subscribers in Germany were denied Senegal’s upset win over reigning champions France when ARD and ZDF pulled the match’s planned digital airing after the opening ceremony.

Although the webs had acquired the rights to 24 games from Kirch, ARD and ZDF’s position on the Astra satellite system allows the signal to be picked up in other countries, in conflict with other World Cup rights holders. The dilemma became apparent last December when Spanish paybox Via Digital threatened to sue Kirch if the matches could be received for free that way.

Kirch and the pubcasters tried to find a technical solution. Kirch, however, also insisted that any liability should be with the pubcasters. Both stated that they were not willing to take that financial risk.

“We negotiated until eight o’clock this morning,” a ZDF spokesperson said. “Eventually, even U.S. lawyers representing rights holders in northern Africa appeared on the bill – that was the knock-out factor.”