For the first time Deutsche Fußball-Liga awards audio exploitation rights for the Bundesliga
For the first time ever, the Deutsche Fußball-Liga (DFL) has awarded audio exploitation rights for the seasons 2013/14 to 2016/2017 of the Bundesliga (first and second division in German football) in a tender process. The Bundesliga rights come with the respective exploitation rights for the so called Super Cup and the leagues' relegation matches.
While no official information on the price has been made public, this tender process hints at the DFL's future business plans with respect to audio rights. In this tender process, the DFL copied the tender model successfully used in the past for TV/IP rights and applied it to the award of audio rights. Many media experts have noted that this choice constitutes a turning point in the German radio landscape.
The rights were awarded separately in packages. The public broadcasting stations (ARD) obtained the so-called audio broadcast package, which covers reporting about the games of the Bundesliga in extracts via VHF radio, as well as the audio extension package, which grants further access rights to the clubs' stadiums.
The package called audio netcast, covering the exploitation rights via I and mobile - including full coverage of every game - has been granted to Sport 1, a subsidiary of Constantin Medien AG. Sport 1 already offers free and pay-per-view sports coverage (including certain coverage of the Bundesliga), as well as a major German sports website, but still has to develop its offer for audio content.
Many observers had expected the DFL to award VHF radio rights to these public broadcasting stations. These stations have been providing Bundesliga coverage for decades, including the very popular conference of the games (estimated contract value to date is about €7 million a year). In contrast, surprise was widespread when Sport 1 was awarded the audio netcast package. It won the tender process against a privately run competitor, 90elf, which had entered the market in 2008 offering full audio live coverage of Bundesliga games via Internet and digital radio; its work to popularize Internet audio coverage of the Bundesliga significantly increased the value of the audio rights now granted to Sport 1.
Despite the discussion of the tender process, many legal questions must still be resolved. For instance, do audio broadcasting rights in football games exist at all? If they do, then to what extent? To date, such rights have not been explicitly defined under German law. They could possibly be derived from clubs' domestic authority in stadiums.
In the course of this discussion, the DFL has now created facts by awarding the respective rights in a tender process. Whether these facts would be upheld if they were challenged before the courts cannot be guaranteed. However, since neither the scope of the awarded rights, nor their mere existence, has been challenged so far, the DFL can continue exploiting its Bundesliga product.
Meanwhile, the DFL is in discussions with market participants over the non-exclusive rights for short audio coverage of selected games, an area which was not subject to the tender process.
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