DFL ‘moves closer’ to compromise with domestic rights-holders

The German Football League (DFL) appears to have edged closer to an agreement with pay-television broadcaster Sky Deutschland over instalment payments for this season’s Bundesliga media rights.

A report from German newspaper Bild claimed that the two had reached a breakthrough in negotiations in which Sky would pay a reduction on the latest €255m ($276m) instalment fee it was due to pay, but would pay the money this month, earlier than initially agreed.

Sky broadcasts 266 live Bundesliga matches exclusively each season and all 306 matches from the second-tier 2. Bundesliga.

The DFL responded to the report by saying that it is “in talks with all media partners” but insisted that there “is still no contractually fixed agreement with Sky.”

Talks over the broadcast rights payments continue with as many as 13 of the 36 clubs from the top two divisions said to be under threat of insolvency.

The league is currently postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. SportBusiness understands that, under the terms of the contract, Sky does not have to pay the DFL if there is no content.

It has also been claimed that public-service broadcasters ARD and ZDF have also agreed to pay their latest media-rights fee instalment. ZDF airs six live matches per season, which include three live Bundesliga matches, the German Super Cup and relegation matches between 2. Bundesliga and third-tier 3. Liga clubs. ARD holds rights to Saturday-evening highlights, which it showcases on its iconic Sportschau programme.

Negotiations over the payment of the rights fee instalments were first reported last month, when the DFL was confident a solution could be found.

At the time, when contacted by SportBusiness, Sky Deutschland said: “We are in constant dialogue with our long-standing partner DFL, especially with regards to the current situation in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga. We are actively discussing constructive solutions, including for license payments and their potential timing.”

The league, in its recently-published DFL Economic report, outlined that in the in 2018-19 season, media rights accounted for the highest proportion of the Bundesliga clubs’ turnover, contributing €1.48bn and just under 37 per cent of the total.

The ‘big four’ Bundesliga clubs (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen) have already pledged to provide €20m to support clubs in both leagues.

The DFL currently brings in €1.16bn per season from its domestic media-rights deals in the 2017-21 cycle. It has recently launched an invitation to tender for rights from 2021-22 to 2024-25 but the awarding of rights has been postponed from the original May target.

Streaming service DAZN holds rights to 40 live matches from the Bundesliga following a wide-ranging agreement with media group Discovery, which first acquired the package in the initial tender process.

DAZN has, however, informed sports rights-holders that it will not make its next rights fee payments for any content that has yet to be delivered, making any compromise negotiations more difficult.

The DFL also has deals with sports broadcaster Sport1 (highlights), and a direct deal with DAZN (highlights clips).

The DFL is currently pushing ahead with plans to complete the 2019-20 season. Chief executive, Christian Seifert, told The New York Times the league is considering a restart at the beginning of May, with matches played behind closed doors at all 36 stadiums across its two leagues, allowing it to complete the season by the end of June.