A German court has upheld a ruling by the national competition authority that a proposed online video platform joint venture between RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 would be anticompetitive. The commercial broadcasters, which between them have almost 90% of the broadcast advertising market, are considering grounds for appeal. The case echoes the Competition Commission ruling in 2009 that the British broadcasters’ consortium known as Project Kangaroo was anticompetitive.
The German competition authority had ruled that the catch-up portal, called Project Amazonas, would have further strengthened the collective dominance of the two broadcasting groups on the television advertising market. The broadcasters argued that it would be a technical platform open to all broadcasters.
The Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf upheld the earlier decision by the Bundeskartellamt independent competition authority. Its president, Andreas Mundt, said in a statement: “The court’s decision is a clear signal for the protection of competition in the new media world. The dynamics of these markets do not prevent companies with significant market power from aiming to secure their market position in the traditional media markets or transferring it to emerging markets.”
RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 both expressed surprise and disappointment at the decision, saying they would examine the judgement and consider a possible appeal. They have not been granted leave to appeal but can challenge that decision in the German Federal Court of Justice.
“We cannot understand the decision against a reasonable, consumer-friendly video platform open to all stations,” ProSiebenSat.1 said in a statement. The television groups argue that foreign companies could move in on the German market.
Public broadcasters ARD and ZDF, which already offer online catchup services, are planning their own video portal in conjunction with other producers and distributors, dubbed Germany’s Gold, on which the competition authorities have yet to rule.
The Amazonas case has echoes of the Competition Commission ruling in 2009 that the planned UKVOD online video joint venture between British broadcasters, otherwise known as Project Kangaroo, was anticompetitive. That seemed to come as a surprise to the British broadcasters, who suggested that the ruling would open the doors to others like Google, Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, the joint venture between NBCUniversal, ABC Disney and Fox. Instead, the British broadcasters focussed their efforts on creating the YouView joint venture platform that launched recently.