Seifert suggests scrapping of Bundesliga's no single buyer rule
By Jonathan Rest
Christian Seifert, chief executive of German soccer's Bundesliga, has questioned the need for the league's controversial 'no single buyer' rule to be in place when it goes to market with its next domestic rights tender.
Germany’s cartel office introduced the ‘no single buyer’ rule ahead of the 2017-18 to 2020-21 cycle, meaning fans have had to sign up to two pay-TV subscriptions to watch all games.
With the legislation in place, the Bundesliga netted an 85-per-cent uplift in domestic media rights revenues, as broadcasters committed €1.16 billion ($1.31 billion) per season, and with 76 per cent of the investment coming from pay-TV’s Sky Deutschland, which previously held exclusive live rights.
The acquisition of 40 exclusive games by Eurosport prompted Sky customers to signal frustration at having to cough up for another subscription, even though a price point of €29.99 per year to access OTT service Eurosport Player stacks up favourably in comparison to other European markets where consumers have to sign up to two services to follow their domestic league.
However, with the Bundesliga set to go to market for the cycle from 2021-22 at the end of this year, and the rights to be awarded in the second quarter, Seifert told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper: "I'm asking a big question mark as to whether we need a no-single-buyer rule again. Due to the technical possibilities in connection with the content strategies of new or existing market participants, there is also enough competition."
At the time the legislation was put in place, Andreas Mundt, the cartel office president, told Sport Bild magazine: “The cartel office campaigned for the ban on single buyers in order to invigorate competition around football coverage. If you have more than one provider on the market, then it promotes innovation and the customer can choose between the different formats.”
He stressed that not every fan “can or wants to” see all the live games and sign up to an expensive and comprehensive subscription package.
The Bundesliga presently brings in €4.6 billion from its four-year domestic rights deal, and Seifert argued that there is still room for growth, noting: "The Bundesliga is still very much in demand."
Following the release of the Bundesliga's annual report last month, Seifert told the Financial Times newspaper: “When you look not only to England, but Italy, Spain, France, [the value of domestic screening rights deals]... get a little bit closer to the ceiling. The German pay-TV market still has a lot of room to grow.”
He said that digital groups could contribute to the continuing rise in the value of Bundesliga rights, after Amazon, the e-commerce giant, acquired radio rights to Bundesliga matches, and DAZN, the international OTT subscription streaming platform, said it plans to bid for domestic Bundesliga rights when they next come up for auction in 2020.
Seifert said at the time: “We are there not to screw our [broadcast] partners or to squeeze them, but to make them more successful. Only when our partners reach their goals, [will they be] willing to invest.”
The DFL chief executive also told Süddeutsche Zeitung he wanted more games to be shown on free-to-air TV, talking up the possibility for the relegation playoffs to be made available to a wider audience in a free-to-air package. They are shown by both Sky and Eurosport at present.
The league has already confirmed that Monday night games will be scrapped in the next rights cycle, after opposition from fans. Those games, shown by Eurosport at present, will likely switch to Sundays.
Monday night soccer debuted in the top-tier Bundesliga in 2017-18, with five matches played across the season, with kick-off times of 8.30pm (CET).
The aim was to give teams taking part in European club competition more time for rest and recuperation, but they have been subject to fierce protests, principally from away fans who have had to take time off work to attend games.