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Cartel office drops anti-competitive Uefa rights case against Sky and DAZN

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, the Bundeskartellamt, has dropped its proceedings against pay-television broadcaster Sky and international streaming service DAZN over suspected anti-competitive practices when Uefa sold its Uefa Champions League media rights in the country in 2017.

The investigation was first launched by the Bundeskartellamt in October 2018.

After Sky acquired exclusive rights in Germany and Austria to the Champions League from 2018-19 to 2020-21, it then subsequently sublicensed select rights to DAZN in both countries.

It is thought that neither Uefa, nor its sales agency Team Marketing, was aware of the agreement between the two.

At the time, Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt said: “We are investigating whether and in what form the co-operation between the two companies was agreed, and whether it has served or hindered the interests of consumers.”

However, the competition watchdog has now discontinued its proceedings against the pair. Mundt said today (Wednesday): “At first, Sky and DAZN’s conduct seemed problematic under competition law. However, there were some reasons for discontinuing the proceedings.

“New players entering the market are increasing its dynamism, which was again demonstrated by the recent award procedure regarding Champions League broadcasting rights for matches as from the 2021-22 season.”

Mundt also claimed that the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on the current football season in Europe “make near-term market developments” hard to predict.

In its statement today, the competition regulator stressed: “Unlike collusion prior to the award procedure, subsequent co-operations between broadcasters after the bidding and award processes are permissible under certain circumstances under competition law. In case of doubt, these co-operations have to be assessed by the competent competition authorities.”

Uefa has since awarded Champions League rights, from 2021-22 to 2023-24, to DAZN, internet retail giant Amazon, and public-service broadcaster ZDF.

DAZN acquired exclusive live rights to the first-pick Wednesday matches, and all remaining live rights except the first-pick Tuesday match. Its inventory includes pay-television rights to the final and exclusive rights to the Uefa Super Cup. Amazon picked up exclusive live rights to the first-pick match on Tuesday. ZDF acquired live free-to-air rights to the final, along with match highlights from both Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

DAZN has been effected heavily by the pandemic and has recently taken the decision that it will not be making future rights fee payments for any content that has yet to be delivered. It has also furloughed an unspecified number of its 2,600 staff worldwide.