RTL, ProSiebenSat Free Internet TV Agreement Faces German Regulator Probe

RTL Group SA and ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG’s plan to set up a joint Internet platform for free television faces an in-depth review from German antitrust regulators.

The Federal Cartel Office in Bonn extended its probe for three months, Kay Weidner, the regulator’s spokesman, said in an interview today. The exact deadline still hasn’t been determined, he said.

“There are some issues with whether all the necessary papers were filed, so we can’t say for now when the period starts to run,” Weidner said. “We nevertheless told the companies last week that we will open this second phase of the probe.”

Television networks are looking to increase their online presence to compete with illegal sites and offset a decline in traditional advertising revenue. The venture would provide all TV stations a platform to offer films and shows online, RTL said in August when announcing the project.

The European Union’s top antitrust regulator on Sept. 24 referred the case to national authorities in Germany and Austria, which sought jurisdiction over the parts of the TV deal affecting their countries. The plan doesn’t raise competition concerns elsewhere in the 27-nation EU, the commission said.

“We think the central platform, open to all broadcasters, is in the interest of German and Austrian Internet users and is in line with antitrust rules,” RTL spokesman Christian Koerner said in an e-mailed statement today. “We’re optimistic the regulators will come to the same conclusion.”

ProSiebenSat.1’s press office didn’t reply to an e-mail requesting comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karin Matussek in Berlin at kmatussek@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@Bloomberg.net.

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