A Cup Of Football, Anyone? | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 10.06.2002
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A Cup Of Football, Anyone?

For the first time ever, football-crazed Germany can only watch all the World Cup games on Pay TV. Not only that: the matches take place at times not quite conducive to watching television.


German fans don't just need caffeine to start their day off right.

It's 8:30 in the morning in Germany. Time for a cup of coffee and the first match of the day.

The World Cup this time around has certainly had an impact on viewing habits. For one, the competition has never taken place in Asia before. Germans were used to nightly games from the United States, Latin or South America. The evening's leisure activities were taken care of: football, beer and ball magic.

This time, the three kick-offs – at 8:30, 11:30 and 13:30 German time – find people either at breakfast, work, or – if they're really lucky – in their lunch break.

Also, in the past, all of society could take part in cheering their team on. Everyone watched all the games on the public television broadcasters ARD and ZDF. No one was excluded.

Paying the price

This time, however, fans are forced to pay a high price to see the matches. The football federation FIFA sold the World Cup television transmission rights to German-based KirchMedia for 850 million euro. Although the company has in the meantime declared bankruptcy, its financially-strapped Pay TV division, Premiere, shows all of the games.

Premiere Logo

Pay TV station Premiere

Premiere says it has registered a leap in new subscribers since shortly before the World Cup began. On average, the broadcaster has won 2 500 new customers per day. The company says it reaches up to three million viewers daily with images from Japan and South Korea.

"The World Cup has most definitely had a positive impact on Premiere," a spokesman told DW-WORLD. He added that it doesn't have to worry about a crash after the final goal is scored. "All of our new customers have signed contracts for 12 or 24 months."

But analysts estimate Premiere's losses at around 3.2 billion euro. And an annual subscription to Premiere starts at 60 euro a year.

So these new subscribers just aren't enough, says Dr. Uwe Hasebrink, director of the Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research at the University of Hamburg. "They would need millions of new subscribers to alleviate their debts and those 2 500 a day are not going to make the difference," he told DW-WORLD.

We want more!

In a controversial deal last year, public television broadcasters ARD and ZDF paid KirchMedia 115 million euro to show 24 of the 64 World Cup games. Only the private station SAT1 can show brief summaries, an honor it paid KirchMedia 10 million euro for.

Over half of Germans are unhappy about the fact that they can only see some of the games on Free TV. In a poll taken by television guide TV TODAY, 34 percent said the evening summaries were not adequate. Especially men wanted to be able to follow more games live: 63 percent compared to 48 percent of women.

Only every fifth German watches the live games on Free TV.

The next World Cup should be different – especially as it's being held in Germany. The European Broadcasting Union wants the rights to the 2006 competition, so that everyone can watch the matches – for free.

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