German Pubwebs Take on YouTube, Hulu with VOD Service

Similar plans by commercial networks blocked by German cartel office.

COLOGNE, Germany - Germany's public broadcasters are uniting to take on YouTube and Hulu announcing plans to set up their own VOD platform as a bulwark against international competitors.

German pubwebs ARD and ZDF today confirmed their VOD strategy, which will see the channels' commercial arms - ZDF Enterprises and WDR Mediagroup - jointly set up an online streaming site similar to Hulu or YouTube. The networks, which are financed by German taxpayers, already provide catch-up versions of many of their programs for free online but for only seven days after broadcast. The proposed new service would be a financed by a combination of advertising and paid downloads, with the broadcasters splitting revenues with producers and rights holders such as Bavaria, Studio Hamburg, Telepool and Beta Film. If all goes according to plan, according to ZDF director Markus Schachter, the VOD service will go online next year.

The plan is controversial. Many do not think public broadcasters should profit from programs that viewers have already paid for through license fees. ARD and ZDF could also have problems getting their VOD service past Germany's media watchdogs. The German cartel office has already rejected a similar plan by commercial broadcasters RTL Television and ProSiebenSat.1 to set up a common online platform for all German TV programming. RTL and ProSieben have challenged the ruling. Public and private networks have invited their competitors to join their respective platforms but so far none have taken the bait.