On March 20, 2020, the FCO approved the German Football League’s (DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga, “DFL”) model to tender media rights for first and second-division Bundesliga matches for the seasons 2021/22 to 2024/25.[1] To address the FCO’s concern, the DFL had offered various commitments, including a so-called “no single buyer” rule.

The “no single buyer” rule ensures that no single bidder can acquire all live media rights exclusively and therefore act as a monopolist without incentive to keep prices stable, improve the quality of its products, or to innovate. While the FCO generally acknowledges that the joint selling of football media rights carries specific advantages for consumers[2] and can thus be exempted from the cartel ban, according to the FCO, the “no single buyer” rule is indispensable to ensure vital competition between different broadcasting and streaming providers.

The FCO had first asked the DFL to implement the “no single buyer” rule to strengthen innovative competition for the 2016/17 tender model. Under the pre-2016/2017 tender model, Sky used to be a quasi-monopolist that acquired all live media rights.[3] Since then, increasing competition has resulted in new products offered by new as well as incumbent providers.

Under the present tender model, media rights are bundled into four different packages, each covering all transmission channels (satellite, cable, and internet), but the rights cannot be acquired on an exclusive basis. However, consumers do not need to purchase different subscriptions to view all matches. For example, where the DFL intends to grant all of the auctioned media rights to one single bidder, it has to grant two of the four packages to a second acquirer for online coverage on a co-exclusive basis. It remains to be seen whether the “no single buyer” rule will also establish itself as the future standard for the tendering of media rights for other sports events.

[1]      Case B6-28/19. See FCO decision of March 20, 2020, only available in German here; FCO Press Release, March 20, 2020, available in English here.

[2]      Such as the simplified organization of the league’s matches or the provision of high-quality league-related products, e.g., the conference coverage of simultaneously played matches, or the timely coverage of highlights.

[3]      See also National Competition Report April – June 2017, p. 15 et seq., available in English here.