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DFL kills Kirch soccer contract

Antitrust authorities had opposed deal

BERLIN — The German soccer league (DFL) has officially nixed a E3 billion ($4.4 billion) contract with Leo Kirch’s Sirius SportMedia group to market media rights for top league Bundesliga soccer.

The decision, which had been expected, follows a dispute between the DFL and German antitrust authorities, who had threatened to block the deal.

The DFL will now handle the sale of the rights itself.

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office had insisted a summary of Saturday matches be shown before 8 p.m. on free TV in order not to force viewers into buying pay TV — a key part of the DFL and Sirius plan that would have resulted in greater exclusivity and higher prices.

Sirius agreed last year to produce and market ready-to-air Bundesliga programs from 2009 to 2015, guaranteeing the DFL revenue of some $730 million per season. The league currently makes some $600 million per season from the sale of rights to pay TV operator Premiere, pubcasters ARD and ZDF, and free TV sports channel DSF.

Allowing an early evening free TV summary would have made it impossible for Sirius to meet its price target, making the scheme futile.

“The Federal Cartel Office has removed the foundation for our co-operation (with Kirch),” DFL president Reinhard Rauball said late on Thursday. “After reviewing all our options, management has decided to end the contractual ties.”

The decision leaves Premiere as the likeliest buyer of pay TV rights, which make up the lion’s share of Bundesliga rights revenue.

National soccer is Premiere’s lifeblood and company execs have maintained that one way or another, the Bundesliga is bound to air on Premiere next year.

Premiere shares climbed nearly 3% on Friday to $15.19.

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