RTL usurps pub­lic-ser­vice broad­cast­ers with deal for Ger­many’s qual­i­fy­ing matches

Sportcal - - MEDIA DEALS -

RTL, the free-to-air com­mer­cial broad­caster, made a bold move in the Ger­man sports rights sec­tor by ac­quir­ing the high­ly­cov­eted rights to Ger­many’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion matches for soc­cer’s 2016 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships and 2018 World Cup in a deal with CAA Eleven, the agency set up to mar­ket com­mer­cial rights to na­tional team matches in Europe.

In ac­quir­ing the rights, RTL sur­prised many ob­servers by dis­lodg­ing ARD and ZDF, the pow­er­ful Ger­man pub­lic-ser­vice net­works that are the long-stand­ing broad­cast­ers of Ger­man na­tional team qual­i­fi­ca­tion and friendly matches.

RTL has not broad­cast Ger­many na­tional team matches since 1993, when the free-to-air net­work showed the team’s friendly matches against Ar­gentina and USA. In re­cent years, motor rac­ing’s For­mula 1 and the fights of Ukrainian heavy­weight box­ers Wladimir and Vi­tali Kl­itschko have rep­re­sented RTL’s flag­ship sports pro­gram­ming.

The Ber­tels­mann-owned broad­caster is to show each of Ger­many’s Euro 2016 and 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing matches and will also of­fer ex­tended high­lights of the other matches from the Euro­pean qual­i­fi­ca­tion tour­na­ment. Han­dels­blatt, the Ger­man fi­nan­cial news­pa­per, re­ported that the deal with RTL was worth €10 mil­lion ($13.2 mil­lion) per match of the Ger­man na­tional team, and there­fore just over dou­ble the fee paid un­til now by ARD and ZDF, al­though some ob­servers have sug­gested the fig­ure is not quite that high.

The deal with the com­mer­cial free-to-air broad­caster is a sig­nif­i­cant blow to ARD and ZDF, which have at­tracted strong au­di­ences for Ger­many’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion matches and have al­ready ac­quired rights to the Euro 2016 and 2018 World Cup fi­nals them­selves. The rights swoop by RTL comes as ARD makes fur­ther cuts to its sports rights bud­get from 2013 to 2016 and amid ques­tions over whether it can keep up with heavy in­vest­ment by pri­vate broad­cast­ers.

Broad­cast rights to Euro­pean teams’ qual­i­fi­ca­tion matches for ma­jor fi­nals were re­cently cen­tralised as Uefa in­tro­duces a ‘week of foot­ball’ con­cept, with in­ter­na­tional fix­tures to be played across six con­sec­u­tive days in an at­tempt to boost the value and ex­po­sure of na­tional team games, and max­imise tele­vi­sion rev­enue.

Uefa said that RTL ‘‘rep­re­sents an ex­cel­lent plat­form for the Ger­man na­tional team matches and will pro­vide valu­able free-to-air ex­po­sure and pro­mo­tion for the com­pe­ti­tion.’’

RTL did ac­quire rights to some matches at the 2006 and 2010 World Cup tour­na­ments, but the lion’s share of games on free-to-air tele­vi­sion, in­clud­ing Ger­many’s matches, re­mained on ARD and ZDF.

CAA Eleven has not yet awarded all of the broad­cast rights in Ger­many for the Euro 2016 and 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing matches, with live and high­lights rights for pay-tele­vi­sion still avail­able.

The DFB, the Ger­man soc­cer fed­er­a­tion which has ne­go­ti­ated a series of rights deals in the past with ARD and ZDF (through its rights­buy­ing arm SportA) be­fore cen­tral­i­sa­tion, is­sued a state­ment in the wake of the award of rights to RTL say­ing that the ‘‘most im­por­tant mes­sage’’ is that all matches of the na­tional team will re­main on free-to-air tele­vi­sion in the fu­ture.

In 2011, ARD and ZDF agreed a deal with the DFB to con­tinue to show Ger­many’s home in­ter­na­tional matches for four years un­til 2016, but ex­clud­ing Ger­many’s home qual­i­fy­ing games for Euro 2016, which were to be mar­keted cen­trally. The deal also cov­ered the Ger­man women’s team’s home games, the third-tier 3.Liga and the top women’s league in Ger­many, and was thought to be worth €175 mil­lion.

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