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DSF suffers steep ratings decline

Soccer kicks free German TV sports web

BERLIN — German free TV sports web DSF suffered a steep ratings drop for its Sunday night Bundesliga soccer highlights in the season that just concluded, even though the race for the championship was the closest in years and not decided until the final game.

DSF’s ratings plunged from 2.3 million in the 2005-06 season to 1.04 million in the 2006-07 season, according to the Institut fuer Medienforschung (IFM) agency that studied the main sports broadcasts in free TV.

Their market share fell from 8.6% to 4.0% in the season that concluded last weekend, with underdogs VfB Stuttgart surprising the pundits and themselves by winning their first title in 15 years on the strength of a thrilling eight-game winning streak at the end of the 34-game season.

Delaying its broadcasts until 10 p.m. — in order to give pay web Arena more exclusivity — from 7 p.m. the previous season hurt DSF badly. The two Sunday matches end shortly before 7 p.m.

All nine of the Bundesliga matches are broadcast each weekend live by Arena. The Bundesliga is one of the most valuable assets in German TV, with the highly popular soccer matches acting as the cornerstone for the operations of Arena and feevee rival Premiere.

On Saturdays, the main day, the six games finish at about 5:15 p.m. The highlights of the six matches played Saturdays are broadcast at 6 p.m. by pubcaster ARD, which actually saw a slight improvement in 2006-07 to 5.77 million and a 27.1 share, up 110,000 from the previous season, when it had a 26.6 share.

ARD has successfully resisted efforts to push back the highlights show to later on Saturday evenings.

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