Competitors threatened by nets' digital plans

Germany's ARD, ZDF seeking to court younger viewers

BERLIN -- Plans by German public networks ARD and ZDF to expand their Internet and digital TV offerings will cost commercial competitors nearly $200 million a year in lost revenue, according to the country's association of private broadcasters.

Commercial channels on Thursday cranked up the pressure on German politicians to put tighter restrictions on public broadcasters as they move to adapt and expand their digital services.

The focus of the debate are two digital niche channels: ARD's live events channel Eins Festival and ZDF's documentary channel ZDF Doku. Both have been around for years and have a tiny, if devoted, viewership.

But now, ARD and ZDF want to make the channels more appealing to younger viewers by adding movies, talk shows and entertainment formats. It's a makeover similar to that seen at the A&E and History channels in the U.S.

Commercial broadcasters are crying unfair competition, saying that the changes will cost them €155 million ($194 million) a year in lost revenue.

Representatives of the German states will meet in the coming weeks to discuss the changes.
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