On April 15, 2020, the German Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) discontinued its proceedings against pay TV broadcaster Sky Ltd. and online streaming service provider DAZN Group Ltd. (“DAZN”) over alleged collusion during the award of the German broadcasting rights to UEFA Champions League matches for the seasons 2018/2019 to 2020/2021 for discretionary reasons.
The investigation was launched in 2018, a year after Sky Ltd. had acquired the media rights for all matches of the upcoming seasons and sublicensed the rights for part of the matches to DAZN. The FCO investigated whether Sky Ltd. and DAZN had agreed to split the German broadcasting rights prior to the UEFA tender procedure.
In its decision to discontinue the proceedings, the FCO considered in particular the COVID-19 crisis. According to the FCO’s president, Andreas Mundt, the unpredictable impact of the coronavirus crisis on the development of the market for football media rights in the near future made it “particularly difficult to assess the effects of an intervention under competition law”.
The FCO’s decision is the first example of how the COVID-19 crisis directly influences competition law and the FCO’s decision-making practice. It remains to be seen whether the FCO—as well as other competition authorities—will apply a similar reasoning also in other cases and industries and use any discretion they have in order to assess the impact of this health and economic crisis on the future development of the markets in question.