German soccer TV, Web rights escalates.

The row over TV and Internet rights for German premier league soccer matches escalated on Tuesday when Unity Media, which holds the live TV broadcast rights, said it would also show the games online.

In an article published in the online version of Financial Times Deutschland (FTD), the German cable operator said it had the rights to show the games over the Web and would do so to boost its broadband business.

"The Internet rights are an important element in marketing our broadband offer, we want to use these rights ourselves," FTD quoted Unity Media head Parm Sandhu as saying.

"We continue to see a great potential here and the Bundesliga could help us with that," he added.

Unity Media could not be reached for comment.

The TV and Internet rights, which were sold separately, have been at the centre of a battle between the companies that bought them and the German soccer league because of disagreements over the language in the contracts and exactly how the rights can be used.

The German soccer league in December awarded the live TV rights to Arena, which is owned by Unity Media, instead of the incumbent, German pay-TV broadcaster Premiere, causing Premiere's shares to drop by nearly half in one day.

The rights are for the next three seasons, starting in August.


A spokesman for Deutsche Telekom, which holds the Internet rights, said: "We think that Unity's (Internet) rights infringe on our rights."

He added that Deutsche Telekom also considered it a "double standard" that Internet rights had been granted to both the telecoms group and Arena.

Deutsche Telekom earlier this month announced it would share its Internet rights with Premiere for broadcasting the games over the Internet.

But the soccer league has said they cannot show the games over cable and satellite networks using Internet technology, the key point being challenged by Premiere.

According to FTD, Sandhu said Deutsche Telekom had no rights to show the games over cable and satellite, adding: "If it had that, it would have been able to present another deal."

Deutsche Telekom and the German soccer league have been in close contact in recent weeks to try to find a compromise in the dispute over the rights, a member of Premiere's executive board said on Tuesday.

But so far they have failed to reach any agreement, Premiere's chief sports and new business officer Carsten Schmidt told on the margins of a pay-TV conference in London hosted by research firm Euroconsult.

"The league wanted to have a solution before the end of the regular season on May 13," he said. "All the talks between the parties were bringing up no compromise or solutions. There were days of non-discussion."

Schmidt said he expects a solution could be reached in the next few weeks even though a meeting scheduled for Tuesday was cancelled. He also repeated Premiere's belief that Deutsche Telekom can use its Internet rights to broadcast over cable and satellite.

He said Premiere would present a new programming and pricing schedule in June, which will include the price of new set-top boxes subscribers will need to see the joint Internet TV offer from the broadcaster and Deutsche Telekom.