ZDF Steals Champions League From Sat.1 in Germany

German pubweb expected to pay up to $230 million for three seasons of soccer.

CANNES – German public broadcaster ZDF has stolen the Champions League crown from competitor Sat.1, outbidding its commercial rival to secure broadcast rights for three seasons of the top-rated club soccer tournament the Champions League.

ZDF will pay more than $210 million for the rights, a hefty sum for a channel financed by viewer tax dollars. The network will also have trouble refinancing the deal. Starting in 2013, on-air sponsorship – a major source of revenue for free-to-air soccer games – will be banned on German public broadcasters after 8 pm, that is before kick off time.

To pay for the Champions League, ZDF will dump less popular sports – including boxing and the Tour de France - from its schedule.

Champions League matches, at least ones involving German teams, are ratings magnets. In February, Sat.1 drew 8.58 million viewers, a 28% share, during its broadcast of a Champions League game between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.