By Chris Forrester
Investment banker Morgan Stanley says there are about 45 bidders now in the battle to win various transmission rights to cover Germany’s Bundesliga soccer. The big hitters, Sky Deutschland and Deutsche Telekom, are at the front of the process and it is not yet clear whether Qatari interests via Al Jazeera have entered a bid.
The number of potential bidders – all of which have to satisfy strict financial qualifications – almost certainly means there will be at least two rounds of bidding. The first is due later this month and the Bundesliga hope to have a second round towards the end of April and to wrap the process up early in May. Free-to-air rights are also included in the process.
The bank says that Deutsche Telekom (DT) will bid across all three classes (IPTV, cable and satellite), and this is likely to be matched by Sky Deutschland (Sky-D).
“Three separate packages of rights will be made available for three distribution platforms,” says Morgan Stanley. “Unlike previously, the mobile and internet rights have been grouped together. At present DT is the holder of the mobile rights and Sky-D has the Internet rights. In the pay section, separate packages of rights will be made available (cable /satellite, IPTV and mobile/internet) for the three distribution platforms. Unlike previously, the mobile and internet rights have been grouped together. There are then three grades of package (Gold, Silver, and Bronze) related to timing of the games. Bidders can place bids vertically (i.e. for all the broadcast/cable rights) or horizontally (all Gold packages) across the grid or for any combination of the nine but not for all nine sets of rights.”
“The process,” says the bank “is complicated by the DFL inviting bids on the basis that the free-to-air highlights will be aired at 18.30pm (the status quo) and on the basis that they are pushed back to 21.45pm. The DFL is exploring the different aggregate returns from adjustments to the schedule – essentially investigating what premium pay TV providers attribute to a greater time lag between the broadcast of the live match and the subsequent broadcast of the highlights package on FTA.”
There are potential risks for the whole process in particular if the Bavarian Authority for Media (one of Germany’s key Lander) objects over possible validity of some aspects.
“Sky-D’s management emphasises that it believes that it is absolutely vital to the future of the company to win at least some Bundesliga rights and ideally all the Bundesliga rights that it wants. Failure to win the rights in any form is not deemed to be an option given the huge question marks this would put over the momentum of the business and its prospects for refinancing. As a result,” says the bank, “Sky-D is likely to bid for all the types of rights in a variety of combinations to ensure that it is a winning bidder somewhere in the process. Fall back strategies such as an outline OTT strategy and other options have clearly been considered.”
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