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Power shifting in Teuton TV biz

B'casters expect providers to wield more influence

COLOGNE — Germany’s broadcasters expect the providers of broadcasting platforms in the TV biz to exert increasing influence following the purchase of national soccer rights by cabler Unity and the recent linkup of pay web Premiere with Deutsche Telekom for IPTV.

At the opening panel of annual confab Medienforum NRW, featuring the toppers of Germany’s main broadcasting groups, ProSiebenSat 1’s Guillaume de Posch suggested next year’s confab likely will see reps from providers on the panel.

According to Premiere topper Georg Kofler, the traditional competition between network groups has been overtaken by “a new breed of contenders, which formerly were transporters exclusively.”

Last week’s deal between Premiere and Deutsche Telekom seemed a successful alliance, given that Telekom previously snatched soccer rights via IPTV for a fraction of the amount paid by Unity for the regular TV rights.

However, the rights seller, national soccer league DFL, is preparing a legal challenge over whether IPTV licenses are valid only for PC or also for the TV set once technical hurdles are taken.

At the forum, the issue turned into a debate of faith. “I guess DFL is right in questioning if this alliance is in line with the spirit of the tender,” said ARD’s Fritz Pleitgen.

“I don’t care about the spirit,” Kofler countered matter-of-factly. “What matters is the written word of the contract we signed.”

With the Telekom alliance, Premiere hopes to snatch back some of the potential it lost along with the regular soccer TV rights in December. Kofler, so far the advocate of radical liberalization at the panel, urged stronger political control to keep distribution platforms away from content providers’ territory.

IPTV was a recurring theme across discussion rounds on the confab’s first day. Reps considered the new platform’s applications would initially be in the field of interactivity and video-on-demand. For producers, it could open “niches tailor-made for special auds,” said Ufa’s Susanne Stuermer. “It can play a complementary role to classical TV with additional themes and information.”

The uncertainties of digital progress and its multiple perspectives were summarized by ZDF’s Markus Schaechter, who said, “It’s a game of chance no matter which direction you take.”

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