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Brussels, 24 July 2003

New marketing system for Bundesliga broadcasting rights

The Commission is planning to exempt the new system for marketing the rights to broadcast first and second division Bundesliga matches from the antitrust rules. The plan submitted by the German Football League (DFL) will ensure more variety and competition in the broadcasting of games from the Bundesliga first and second divisions. It is also expected to give a boost to the new media, UMTS and broadband Internet. In the Commission's view, the traditional central marketing system restricts competition between clubs and between media companies, exacerbating trends towards concentration in the sector. Under the new system, all broadcasting rights will no longer be sold to a single broadcaster in one package. For the first time, broadcasting rights will be unbundled and offered for sale transparently in a number of separate packages. In future, it will be possible to show all games live over the Internet and via mobile phones. First and second division Bundesliga clubs will also be allowed to sell some broadcasting rights themselves. At the next stage of the procedure the market participants will have the opportunity to present their views.

As Mario Monti, the Commissioner responsible for competition, explained, the splitting of rights into separate packages that will be sold by means of a transparent procedure will give “more broadcasters more chances”. Moreover, the fact that clubs will sell rights will produce “more competition and more football on offer for the consumer”. The fragmentation will also “counter any monopolising of rights by a few particularly wealthy operators.” “It is good for football and good for the fans,” Monti went on.

This draft solution brings the interests of the sport and its fans and the commercial benefits of central marketing into line with EU competition rules.

“Following on from the UEFA Champions League case,” Monti pointed out, “this is the first system to introduce a transparent, non-discriminatory procedure for awarding centrally marketed rights on a national scale”, adding that “under the new marketing system more second division matches as well will be broadcast live. Separate live packages will also be developed for broadcasting over the Internet and mobile phones.” This will encourage the development of the new media, particularly in German-speaking countries. “The next generation of mobile phones and the Internet are in urgent need of attractive content. The Commission has succeeded in ensuring that, for the first time, this content will be available to consumers on the market throughout Europe.”

“The amount of central marketing will be reduced,” the Commissioner said, explaining the role of the clubs under the new system, “In all areas television, radio, Internet and on mobile phones it will no longer be possible to market certain exclusive rights centrally, and in future Bundesliga clubs will be able to market them independently.” For example, clubs will be able to sell the rights to their home matches one day after the game, thus opening up new sources of revenue. Furthermore, clubs may step in where the League fails to sell rights centrally.

Mobile phones and the Internet should offer clubs particularly suitable channels for marketing special offers for their own fans. Fans could download specific highlights featuring their team from the Internet or watch clips of live games on their mobile phones.

This new system will also protect the brand image of the Bundesliga as the overall organiser. After all, purchasers benefit from needing to contact only one provider to acquire the broadcasting rights necessary for comprehensive reports on the Bundesliga.

In a parallel procedure the Commission has exempted the central marketing of UEFA Champions League matches from the antitrust rules.

The draft settlement in a nutshell

  • The DFL or an independent selling body will offer packages in a transparent and non-discriminatory procedure. Applicants may resolve disputes through arbitration. No contract may cover more than three seasons.

  • Two television packages contain live broadcasting rights. They can be acquired by both free TV and PPV providers. One package contains Saturday's first division matches and Sunday's second division games (the main match day package). The second package contains Sunday's first division games and Friday's second division matches (the secondary match day package). Both packages will also contain other rights, including conference-call coverage of the other match day.

  • The third package consists of free TV rights for the first highlights programme and the right to broadcast at least two Bundesliga first division games live per season. The fourth package entitles the provider to broadcast the second division matches live on free TV. Other packages cover secondary and tertiary exploitation rights for free TV. These packages may be shared out among free TV broadcasters.

  • Centrally marketed Internet and mobile phone packages: Various packages offering live and deferred broadcasting.

  • Clubs' television rights: every club can sell its home games 24 hours after the match on free TV once.

  • Clubs' mobile phone, Internet and audio rights: every club may offer the latest clips through mobile phones and put extensive match highlights on its website. Furthermore, every club can market live excerpts of its matches on the radio and mobile phones and offer live audiostreaming on the Internet.

  • Rights that the League is unable to market may be offered at the same time by the home club.

  • Further league packages and club rights round off the draft settlement, the television aspects of which will enter into force in July 2006. All the other provisions will apply as of July 2004.

The next stage

Before the Commission can take a final decision on the exemption of the newly liberalised marketing rules, it will publish a summary of the marketing system proposed by the DFL in the Official Journal in accordance with Article 19(3) of EEC Council Regulation No 17/1962. All interested parties, particularly the clubs, media companies and consumer organisations will then have an opportunity to submit their comments on the proposed marketing system to the Commission.

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