Sky Wins German Champions League Soccer Broadcast Rights

Updated on
  • Perform Group’s DAZN is sub-licensee from next year until 2021
  • Sky victory means German public broadcaster ZDF pushed out

The deal means Germans will have to pay to watch the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea compete.

Photographer: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Sky Plc won the rights to broadcast Champions League matches in Germany, allying with billionaire Len Blavatnik in a deal that’s likely to force soccer fans for the first time in Europe’s biggest economy to pay to watch the competition.

Sky won the rights to three seasons starting with 2018-2019 across satellite, cable TV, the web and mobile phones, according to a statement Tuesday. The company didn’t disclose the cost and said Blavatnik’s Perform Group Ltd., which runs the DAZN streaming service, is a sub-licensee.

The companies gave no detail on how the games will be split, but it’s likely that Germans will have to sign up for pay-TV services to watch the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea compete. For the past 5 years, public-TV channel ZDF has been showing several Champions League games a season for free, yet its bid didn’t make the final cut. Sky has had most Champions League games in Germany since the 2006-2007 season.

Sky and DAZN declined to comment on the price or the terms of their agreement. Representatives of both companies said by phone they’ll release more information in the coming months. Sky Deutschland’s pay-TV package that includes Champions League costs about 25 euros ($28) a month.

Grabbing at least some of the games is a major victory for DAZN, which aims to be the so-called Netflix of sports. DAZN charges about 10 euros a month to pipe soccer, tennis and basketball onto tablets, mobile phones and smart-TVs in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and also operates in Japan, where it paid 210 billion yen ($1.9 billion) for a 10-year deal to show J.League soccer. In Germany, DAZN is already showing English Premier League soccer after snatching the rights from Sky.

DAZN’s backing also helps Sky hold onto exclusive sports it can use to attract users amid a backdrop of rapidly increasing costs. BT Group Plc in March agreed to spend 1.18 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) to hold on to the Champions League in the U.K., agreeing to a 32 percent price increase to secure the future of its pay-TV business.

While rising costs have forced free-to-air broadcasters like ZDF out of some action, leagues are under pressure from their sponsors to keep the games available to as many viewers as possible. Sky has a free channel in Germany, so it’s possible that some Champions League games will end up being shown there.

UEFA, the organization that organizes the Champions League, declined to comment on the price of the rights or the nature of the sub-licensee agreement.

(Updates with rights detail in third paragraph.)
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