German monopoly commission criticises cartel office for DFL tender approval

Germany’s federal monopoly commission has criticised the decision of the country’s federal cartel office, the Bundeskartellamt, to allow the German Football League (DFL) to sell exclusive live media-rights packages for the Bundesliga in the 2021-22 to 2024-25 cycle.

The Monopolkommission has said that the Bundeskartellamt’s decision to approve the latest DFL tender “does not sufficiently address the issue of limited price competition”.

It believes that there is no competition for the individual live matches, which harms the consumer, and that they would benefit if live rights were no longer sold exclusively.

The DFL awarded rights to the top-tier Bundesliga and second-tier 2. Bundesliga in June. The key live rights packages of the top-tier Bundesliga have been shared between pay-television broadcaster Sky and OTT streaming service DAZN.

Sky has acquired rights to 200 live matches per season, including all matches on Saturdays and midweek on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. DAZN has acquired 106 live Bundesliga matches per season, including all matches on Fridays and Sundays.

The DFL did sell non-exclusive free-to-air rights to nine matches in the 2021-25 cycle to commercial broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1, and also non-exclusive digital rights to 33 matches per season from the 2. Bundesliga to sports broadcaster Sport1.

The DFL sent out the 2021-25 tender document on March 17, and was given the green light to proceed with the sales process by the Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s federal cartel office, on March 20.

The awarding of exclusive rights, especially for premium properties, is common practice, with subscription-based broadcasters such as Sky and DAZN unlikely to pay rights fees to the same level if the matches were non-exclusive.

This years 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.

Revenue from its domestic broadcasters for the forthcoming 2021-25 rights cycle will be €1.1bn per season, slightly down from the €1.16bn per season it currently receives.