RTL, Prosieben Counter Regulatory Objection to Joint Online Video Platform

Germany’s anti-cartel office said it thought the plans violated media competition laws.


COLOGNE, Germany – RTL and ProSiebenSat.1, Germany’s two largest commercial TV networks, have countered objections made by local watchdogs to their plans to set up a joint online video platform similar to Hulu.

RTL and ProSieben want to jointly set up a portal that would be open to all German-language broadcasters, public and commercial, to screen TV content online.

Germany’s anti-cartel office last month said it thought the plans violated media competition laws because the portal would not be open to all VOD offerings and because it might extend what the office called RTL and ProSieben’s “duopoly” in German free TV to the online world.

The networks reject both claims. In a statement Thursday, RTL said making the portal open to all VOD offerings, not just established broadcasters, would dilute the quality of the service and degrade its value.

“From the beginning, the platform was designed as an broadcaster-open service for the time-delayed offering of linear and professionally-produced content,” RTL said in a statement. “It was only at the end of our negotiations that the cartel office demanded the service be infinitely extended.”

RTL and ProSieben also reject the cartel office’s claim that they represent a duopoly in the German free-TV market, although between them their channels account for more than 75% of Germany’s total TV ad revenues.

The cartel office now has until March 21 to issue its final decision on the planned service. If they reject it, it could open up the market for international players such as Hulu to move it, although rights issues remain. The big European networks control the bulk of TV content in their respective territories and are hesitant to hand over digital rights.

In a conference call with journalists Thursday, RTL Group CEO Gerhard Zeiler said the company was theoretically open to offering its’ programming to online aggregate services such as Hulu. But Zeiler said RTL would not provide shows piecemeal – “we want to put our brand on aggregators, the shop-in-shop concept, we won’t be putting our programs alone on aggregators” – and that the company would not hand over the sale of advertising linked to its shows.

“There’s not reason why others should sell our advertising. We’ll do this ourselves,” he said.