German Watchdogs Could Block Hulu Clone

Authorities have given local broadcasters RTL and ProSieben until March 10 to defend their proposed platform, which could violate media competition laws.

COLOGNE, Germany – German competition watchdogs have threatened to block plans by local broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 to launch an online TV platform similar to Hulu in Germany.

The German cartel office in Bonn has warned RTL and ProSieben their proposed platform could violate media competition laws. The authorities have given the networks until March 10 to defend their model, which would set up an open-access, ad-sponsored online platform for German TV content. The cartel office will then issue its final ruling.

The platform is key to RTL and ProSieben's online distribution strategy. Both networks have their own online video platforms but are eager to create a one-stop site for all German TV to prevent a splintering of the market.

They are also eager to occupy the online video space before Hulu arrives. Up till now, the U.S. site has been unable to roll out its offerings in Europe because of rights issues. European channels control the bulk of TV content in their respective territories and are loath to hand over digital rights to a potential U.S. competitor.

But German authorities appear to think a little competition might be a good thing. Between them, RTL and ProSieben control more than 75% of the German TV ad market. Although they pledge their online platform will be open to all, many fear the networks will use their dominant position to block out smaller players or insure no competing service can establish a foothold in the market.

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