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