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ARD shows UEFA the red card

German pubcaster ditches soccer for talkshow

Pubcaster ARD is giving up rights to the UEFA Cup soccer championship in order to finance a pricey deal with talkshow superstar Harald Schmidt.

ARD had been considering giving up the UEFA games after recently failing to land the raise in viewer license fees it had sought. The recent deal with Schmidt, a hugely popular host who last year ankled his show on commercial rival SAT.1, will reportedly cost ARD some €8 million annually and has made giving up the soccer championships a necessity. In October the government approved a license fee hike of €0.88 ($1.14) a month instead of the $1.42 the pubcasters were seeking. Viewers will now have to pay some $22 a month, increasing the pubcasters’ total annual budget by some $455 million to more than $9 billion.

ARD is planning to offset part of the cost of the new Schmidt show though sponsoring deals. ARD program director Guenter Struve said sponsors were already “queuing, up” at the pubcaster for the new show, which kicks off Dec. 23, airing twice weekly.

Fellow pubcaster ZDF has said it would seek to continue its coverage of the UEFA Cup but would not pick up ARD’s share of the rights. French-based rights group Sportfive handles UEFA Cup rights in Germany and has a contract with ARD and ZDF through 2005.

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