The BKartA has blocked plans by the TV-channel operators RTL and
Pro7Sat1 to form a joint venture for the provision of an online
The BKartA this week held that the creation of the joint
platform would further strengthen the existing dominant duopoly of
the two broadcasting groups on the market for TV advertising.
Additionally, the BKartA expressed its concern that a coordination
of business interests via the joint venture between the two
competitors would also be very likely, which in turn would
constitute an infringement against the prohibition of
RTL and Pro7Sat1 had planned to provide 'catch-up'
television through the video platform, enabling viewers to access
German- and Austrian-aired television programmes for up to seven
days after transmission. It was intended for the service to cover
both public and private television channels and to be available
free of charge.
The decision marks the latest set-back in a lengthy process,
which started with the initial notification of the
'full-function' joint venture to the European Commission on
6 August 2010. Following a downwards referral request from Germany
and Austria, the question was referred to the national authorities
at the end of August 2010, as the proposed transaction would affect
competition in national online TV and advertising markets in
Germany and Austria.
In Austria, the parties withdrew the notification on the very
same day in late August 2010. The Austrian authority had voiced
strong concerns that both parties, together with the former
monopolist ORF, held approximately 80% market share in the TV
In Germany, the BKartA opened an in-depth investigation into the
market in late October 2010, setting the decision deadline on 21
March 2010. On 24 February 2011 the BKartA issued a statement of
objection to RTL and Pro7Sat1, setting out the competition concerns
it had identified in the planned joint venture. The BKartA was of
the opinion that the joint venture in its intended form would
strengthen the dominant duopoly of the parties on the market for TV
advertising and increase the likelihood of business interests being
The possible benefits of the deal, resulting in increased
video-on-demand coverage would only outweigh the negative effects,
if the platform was open to third parties as well as broadcasters
and was purely technical. The parties could not allay these fears
and it has been rumoured that third-party access to the platform
proved the sticking point.
The BKartA decision is not yet legally binding. The last
recourse now available to RTL and Pro7Sat1 is to appeal against the
decision, in which case the Federal Court in Düsseldorf would
have to decide on the issue. For now, the authority has killed the
To view Community Week, Issue 513; 18th March 2011 in
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