Bundesliga kicks Infront licensing ties for soccer

League expected to talk directly with b'casters

COLOGNE — The German soccer league Bundesliga will discontinue its cooperation with agency Infront for the licensing of TV rights.

In late 2002 Swiss-based Infront took over rights packages covering two seasons from the former Kirch Sport. Agency, headed by German soccer legend Guenter Netzer and former Adidas topper Robert-Louis Dreyfus, did not exercise its option to renew for another two seasons, which expired on Dec. 31.

Infront tried to negotiate a price of reportedly some 10% less than the $300 million originally agreed per season.

Bundesliga is now expected to talk directly to broadcasters, including pay web Premiere, sports web DSF and pubcaster ZDF.

Soccer rights, which have skyrocketed in value for 15 years as the blooming commercial webs outbid the traditional pubcasters, recently suffered from noticeable price dips. Bundesliga is now trying to fight a downward spiral, given that many of its member clubs rely on TV revenues to pay for generous long-term contracts made with their players at better times.

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