A proposal from leading German commercial broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 to form a co-owned online portal operating in a similar manner to American site Hulu have been halted by courts in the country, claiming that an online addition to the dominance of the two on TV would be an too much of a challenge for rival commercial broadcasters to face.
Decided at a regional court in Dusseldorf, the decision supports an earlier one made in the federal level, and notes that the area of ‘new media’ is one that needs to be protected while it is still ‘new’, to avoid a market whitewash by the major forces in German broadcasting, despite RTL and ProSieben’s plans (as the ‘Medien Gruppe’ collaboration) to allow their ad-supported service to also be open to ‘third parties’ (including those from German-language stations outside the country).
Federal Cartel Office president Andreas Mundt said of the decision to legally ban the broadcasters’ attempts to enter the online TV market together: “The decision of the Court of Appeal is an important signal for the protection of competition in new media. The dynamics of these markets does not mean that companies that already hold marker power will not try to expand their market position in traditional markets and to secure transfer to emerging markets.”
The pair were noted by the court as holding a ‘duopoly’ in the free advertising market on TV in Germany, collectively controlling around 66% through their respective family of networks.
The plan was set to offer content from those networks (including TV shows and movies) in addition to the online catch-up services offered by both RTL and ProSiebenSat.1, but it now appears as though they will have to make do with one service each.
A disappointed ProSiebenSat.1 summarised from their point of view, stating: “We cannot understand the decision against a reasonable, consumer-friendly video platform open to all stations. We will look closely at the grounds for the judgment and consider whether to appeal.”
Media Gruppe have reminded the courts that the decision to deny them could pave the way for major services such as Netflix and Hulu to make expansions into Germany, but if this case has set a precedent, could the traditionally-hardline German commercial legal system manage to protect the current ‘victims’?